What was remarkable about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Asia last week was that it showed an innovative approach to diplomatic relations and communications. Rather than just the formal meetings with dignitaries Clinton showed a much more human communications style, both in style and actions, making time to speak at universities to talk with female students, to appear on a popular television show, to go to church.
Clinton told reporters that she is determined to make a connection to people “in a way that is not traditional, not confined by the ministerial greeting and the staged handshake photo…I see our job right now, given where we are in the world and what we’ve inherited, as repairing relations, not only with people.”
Better yet, the previously overly cautious, overly messaged Clinton, has seen the light about the value of straight talk.
Mark Landler of The New York Times reported on Saturday: “Mrs. Clinton raised eyebrows among journalists and analysts with a frank assessment of how a succession struggle in North Korea could undermine talks over its nuclear program. She said she was baffled by the reaction.”
“Maybe this is unusual because you are suppose to be so careful that we spend hours avoiding stating the obvious,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I think it’s worth, perhaps, being more straightforward, trying to engage countries on the basis of the reality that exists.”
This straightforward, human approach to communications is what all people are craving — in foreign relations, in government, at school, in business. In fact, one of the effects of social media has been to amplify this desire.
Gary Hamel recently posted “25 Stretch Goals for Management” on the Harvard Business Publishing blog – summarizing a two day summit of business leaders tackling the topic of how to reinvent management. My favorite goal, which underscores Clinton’s recent style, is #24:
“Humanize the language and practice of business. Tomorrow’s management systems must give as much credence to such timeless ideals as beauty, justice and community as they do to the traditional goals of efficiency, advantage and profit.”
Mrs. Clinton has come so far in changing her leadership communications style over the past two years to be more real, more human, more direct. Now let’s help our business leaders do the same so they can be more inspiring leaders vs. merely effective managers.