Writing is a Leadership Superpower

Great leaders are also great communicators and great communicators are also great writers.

Writing is also a bedrock for great leadership and mastering it will bring calmness and clarity to you and your team.

In this chapter we will outline the benefits of great writing and give you a hands down approach to great writing as a leader.

Benefits of writing

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

In the famous words of Ice Cube "check yourself before you wreck yourself". A classical way to fail in communication is communicating prematurely before your message is clear. Many leaders often fall in the trap of thinking they have the right idea in their head, calling a meeting and it is not until they have to say it out loud in front of their team that they realise that it is not clear at all.

Writing really helps here.

If you write down your ideas first you get a chance to proof-read yourself. Don't be afraid to lay it down for a day and go back and re-read it. Don't be afraid to do this multiple times.

The very best leaders and communicators lets their writing age like fine wine until it is crystal clear.

Ask for feedback

Writing allows you to get feedback on your communication before sharing it.

If you are communicating to your team ask your manager for feedback on your writing before presenting. If you communicate to your manager or external stakeholders on behalf of your team, you can have them give you feedback.

This is a excellent way of creating alignment around you as a leader in an organisation.

Allow people to understand on their own time

Humans tend to forget 50% of a message within a hour of learning it for the first time, 70% is forgotten within just 24 hours and 90% within a week.

If you just give information once in a meeting be prepared for you not having alignment of repeating the same message a lot.

Luckily social science also shows that we forget slower every time we are presented with the same message again. For recipients of your communication it is thus important to get the same message over and over again for it to stick.

This is why writing is so powerful for communication. Your team has the ability to go back and review what you wrote every time your are in doubt or if two team members remember something different. All this without having to wait on you.

Writing leads when you are not there

One of the most powerful features of writing is that it allows you to lead without being in the room.

If you want to be calm as a leader you need to ensure that your team can work without you and your writing allows you to set a direction and provide guidance without you being constantly available.

How to write great as a leader

Okay, you get the benefits of writing but how do you become great at it? It takes practice but these steps are involved every time.

  1. Remove all distractions. Both in the environment around you but also in front of you. Pick the most boring text editor and focus only on words and not styling. Include a picture only if it helps underlining a point. All other graphics (eg slides) steal your time and really don't help at all.

  2. Write a introduction outlining:

    • Why have you written this in the first place.
    • What is it you want to achieve.
    • Summarise your keys insights or asks.
  3. Take your readers through your thoughts a section at a time. Each section should have one topic with clear headline.

  4. Write a conclusion or an ask.

  5. Go back and re-write your introduction now that you know what you have written.

  6. Lay it down and go away for 20 minutes. Don't start another important task but get a coffee and a break.

  7. Go back and rewrite anything you don't find super clear.

  8. Ask for relevant feedback.

  9. Share.

All of this might seem like a lot of work but Calm Leadership is all about taking a little extra work up-front in order to save a lot of work in putting out fires and clear up miscommunication down the line.