In last week’s Financial Times’ “Judgment Call” section, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s public lambasting of the Bank of Canada was highlighted and a panel of experts was asked to weigh in on whether it’s best to wage such debates publicly or “more quietly.” I suggested that the choice is not so much either or, but which when. The key is the target audience. Executives must be clear about whom they are trying to influence, and when and how to do that directly and indirectly.

Communication is a critical leadership skill because everything communicates: what leaders say, do, don’t say, don’t do, and where they say and do it. The most effective leaders do three things prior to communicating:

1. Identify Target Audiences

There is rarely one single target audience. Instead, it’s important to influence the target directly and to influence their influencers. Beyond conversing with bank regulators, Dimon also knew he had to connect with the public to influence the regulators. As a result, he took his argument public to do so.


2. Craft an Overarching Message and Key Communication Points

Great communication pivots off of a central message. Great examples of this include, “We’re going to be ranked one or two or we’re going to get out,” one of Jack Welch’s early messages at General Electric, and “A car in every driveway,” Henry Ford’s overarching message deployed in the early twentieth century. Dimon has a relentless focus on truth as a way to manage risk.  The overarching message anchors the communication plan. Your communications points both flow from this message and reinforce it.

3. Choose the Most Appropriate Media

The explosion of new social media forums was the main catalyst for us removing what we wrote about communications in the first two editions of our book, “ The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan ,” and starting fresh in the third edition. Social media should make you re-think everything you know about where to communicate. If you don’t believe me, there are a couple of Middle Eastern ex-dictators who can reinforce the point.

This is why the choice is not about which media to deploy and not deploy, but when to deploy them. Ignoring any media is merely ceding your ability to influence the audience engaging with that media. The conversations will always continue with or without you.

Following these three steps leaders must then implement a series of conversations across targets and media, monitoring and adjusting along the way.  This is why it was important for Dimon to take his arguments public and influence the influencers.

This is a good example of step 5 of The New Leader’s PlaybookDrive Action by Activating and Directing an Ongoing Communication Network (Including Social Media)

Everything communicates. You can either make choices in advance about what and how you’re going to communicate or react to what others do. It is important to discover your own message and be clear on your platform for change, vision, and call to action before you start trying to inspire others. It will evolve as you learn, but you can’t lead unless you have a starting point to help focus those learning plans. Identify your target audiences. Craft and leverage your core message and master narrative. Monitor and adjust as appropriate on an ongoing basis.

Click here to read about each step in the playbook

Click here for YouTube videos highlighting each step


The New Leader’s Playbook includes the 10 steps that executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis uses to help new leaders and their teams get done in 100-days what would normally take six to twelve months. George Bradt is PrimeGenesis’ managing director, and co-author of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan (Wiley, third edition just released). Follow him at @georgebradt or on YouTube.