Leaders today spend up to 90 percent of each day communicating to make good things happen in their organizations. They communicate with colleagues, customers, shareowners, creditors, regulators, advocates, and competitors. They influence culture, opportunity, risk-taking, and risk aversion. The stakes in this new communication environment are very high, driving home Winston Churchill’s statement: “The difference between mere management and leadership is communication.”
These days, leaders are likely to face adversity and career-testing situations. Crisis defines leaders and their organizations. But it does not have to take them down. Talk Is Chief provides sound advice, examples, and even a list of the “Ten Commandments of Crisis Management” so that leaders can either avoid crises or avert worst-case scenarios when confronted with an existential threat.
Jack Modzelewski’s vast years of experience working with numerous Fortune 500 companies as a communications consultant tells us that too many leaders undervalue and therefore underperform their vital communication responsibilities. They do so at their own disadvantage and sometimes peril in this age of heightened activism, transparency, disinformation, and disruption.
Whether they recognize it or not, leaders are chief credibility officers, with organizational reputations often resting on their words and actions, especially in times of crisis. As a CEO quoted in the book said: “Communication shouldn’t be just another hat that a CEO wears. It should be at the core of everything you do.”
Leadership communication today—the ability for leaders to be heard and clearly understood above the constant noise of the complicated worlds in which they must lead or govern—is of the highest importance. It’s proven that effective leadership communication inspires people to perform collectively better, leading to better outcomes. Which is why Talk Is Chief is a must-read for twenty-first-century leaders.
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About the Author
Modzelewski has more than thirty-five years of experience with corporate and brand communications programs for a wide spectrum of big clients in the telecommunications, automotive, food service, technology, energy, financial, healthcare, and professional sports industries. He has worked with companies such as McDonald’s, AT&T, General Motors, Chase Bank, Baxter, Tribune, Monsanto, and Procter & Gamble. He also advised associations such as the Consumer Electronics Association and not-for-profits such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
He has considerable first-hand experience in corporate and financial communications, mergers and organizational restructurings, issues management, and all means of strategic stakeholder outreach. He has assisted clients in 25 major crises, both domestic and international. One of Modzelewski’s past clients called him the “counsellor’s counsellor.”
He has given speeches and written articles on subjects spanning leadership, international business, marketing and social media, and risk and crisis management. He’s attended five World Economic Forum (WEF) conferences in Davos and WEF meetings on five continents. He has been listed on PRWeek’s Global Power List and in 2015 was inducted in the Medill Hall of Achievement at Northwestern University. He is currently chairman of the board of the Better Government Association in Illinois, and also sits on the Medill board. Prior to his career in public relations and communications, he was a multi-media, award-winning journalist.
Table of Contents
1 Leaders and Future Leaders: We Are All in Communications 1
2 Do Culture and Communication Eat Strategy for Breakfast? 17
3 "I Need a Miracle" 33
4 Anticipating Risks, Preparing for Opportunities 65
5 Sizzle in the Narrative 89
6 Leaders Need Communications Pros 115
7 Shift Happens 139
8 Stand Up for Change 167
9 Final Thoughts: Words as Weapons and Personal Communication Style 191
About the Author 219