On the shelf: The Language of Leaders by Kevin Murray

Clare Field, group marketing director, Manheim, reviews The Language of Leaders by Kevin Murray.

If you want a concise summary of what makes great leadership, gathered from chairmen, CEOs and bosses of some of the UK’s top organisations – businesses, charities, NGOs and the military – read this book, which draws on hours of interviews with some of our most powerful and experienced leaders, and their life experiences.

The author is Kevin Murray, a communications professional who specialises in strategic communications, reputation management and leadership communications coaching. He has almost 40 years’ experience in communications –first as a journalist, then in corporate communications and now consultancy, as chairman of The Good Relations Group, part of Chime Communications. He wrote the book after interviewing 54 top-ranking leaders.

I was concerned that the book would be solely about communication. Excellent communication is a big part of great leadership, but there are many other qualities that talented leaders need. The book covers these other areas comprehensively. It talks eloquently about the need for a clear set of values, coupled with a simply expressed mission or purpose and a compelling vision of the destination.

The book highlights the need for open, frequent, motivating and structured communication to galvanise the organisation. It also covers the need for leaders to create other leaders, not followers. Teams must take the right decisions and act fast, especially in this age of instant and transparent communication. Decision-making needs to be devolved to enable this to happen. Murray also relays the essential need to be authentic and build trust, and to do this by "being yourself, better".

To me, leadership is synonymous with marketing, so this book has enormous value for all in our profession. Too many organisations (and some marketers) think that marketing is just about communicating in order to advertise, promote and sell a product or service – the afterthought at the end of the business process.

In my own company, Manheim, the biggest vehicle remarketing organisation in the world, we are on a journey of developing our marketing function from being the "creative, poster- and ad-producing department", to a more fully integrated function that is supporting the business throughout – from customer insight, through proposition development and communicating, supporting sales and delivering great products and customer service via our engaged workforce.

In short, as The Marketing Society’s new marketing manifesto states, we are becoming bolder leaders by helping all functions in pursuing our purpose, championing the customer and mobilising the organisation. This book has a great deal to contribute to this journey for any marketing function.

Earlier this year, Murray published a second book, entitled Communicate to Inspire: a Guide for Leaders. It focuses on the need to repair and build trust through inspirational leadership. In a climate of increasing scrutiny of organisations and empowerment of the individual, this is vital, so I look forward to reading that next.


If you only have time for this… six key points from the book.

1 Communication is key to leadership – this needs to be open, frequent, motivating and structured. Engaging people emotionally through storytelling is crucial.

2 Conveying a clear and true set of values, a motivating sense of purpose (mission) and a compelling future vision are three of the most important aspects of leadership.

3 Establishing and maintaining trust is essential to leadership – trust of judgement, trust of motivation and trust to deliver.

4 Leaders create leaders, a military lesson from the Napoleonic Wars that is hugely relevant in today’s business leadership. We need to delegate and empower.

5 Devolving leadership is then facilitated and part of what drives successful results.

6 Authenticity in leaders is essential: you must be you, "walk the talk" and set the example.