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Demonstrating Leadership Through Simple and Powerful Language

Good writing helps demonstrate leadership skills. Company heads can shape the future of their organizations and inspire employees. Senior-level supervisors can explain complex sales or management strategies. Midlevel managers can demonstrate or validate leadership abilities to subordinates and supervisors. And any employee who writes effectively will look better to the people who may play a role in determining his or her future with the company.

For example, a well-written document can show readers that you

  • understand all aspects of a problem and can clearly convey them
  • understand how a problem affects various people and departments
  • have thought about potential solutions and can explain the options clearly
  • know which steps different people should take and when they should take them.

Here are excerpts from a CEO's letter to employees, shareholders, and clients, describing the positive results of his management style.
"To our employees, shareholders, and clients:

This last year was our finest, as 450,000 employees around the world helped us post the strongest results in the company's century-long history:

  • Revenues rose 15 percent, to $89.8 billion, a record.
  • Earnings increased 19 percent, to $11.3 billion; this is the first time the company has broken the $10 billion mark in earnings from operations.
  • Per-share earnings rose 22 percent.
  • For the fourth consecutive year, our company was among Fortune magazine's most admired American enterprises.
  • Shareholders - including our active and retired employees who own $17 billion of company stock in their savings and pension plans - were rewarded with a 48 percent total return on each share of company stock.

We begin this new year completely focused on the customer, energized by innovative e-commerce opportunities, and poised to move forward to levels of performance and growth unprecedented in our company's history.
We thank you for all your support in helping make this future so bright."

In an effort to justify his management approach, the writer uses simple, compelling language and presents supporting data that illustrates the results of his leadership. The financial figures are stated simply (for example, revenues rose 15 percent, earnings increased 19 percent), so most employees can easily grasp them. Plus, phrases like strongest results in the company's century-long history, energized by innovative e-commerce opportunities, and levels of performance and growth unprecedented in our company's history drive home a simple and powerful message that credits all employees for the firm's success and inspires them to do even better.




Note: This article is excerpted from 10 Steps to Successful Business Writing by Jack E. Appleman.


Jack E. Appleman is an award-winning writer with more than 20 years of experience as a trainer, PR and communication professional, and professor. As president of SG Communications, he conducts writing workshops that enable corporate employees at all levels to write more productively. He received his BA in communication from Ohio State University and his MS in journalism from Ohio University. Appleman earned the Certified Business Communicator designation from the Business Marketing Association. He is a past president of BMA's New Jersey chapter and serves as vice president of marketing for the northern New Jersey chapter of ASTD.

2010 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Jack Appleman, APR, CBC, is a prominent writing instructor, coach, and author who is committed to helping individuals achieve better results with their writing. He is driven by the belief that everyone can significantly improve their text by following a series of straightforward steps. Jack’s workshops, webinars, and coaching sessions have helped thousands of working professionals become more confident and proficient writers.

As principal of the Monroe, New York–based Successful Business Writing, Jack brings more than 25 years’ experience as a corporate trainer, professor, and public relations professional. He is a frequent speaker and has published several articles on the importance of good writing. He’s also contributed to several articles in the Wall Street Journal. In 2015, Jack received the Charles T. Morgan Award for lifetime excellence in corporate training from the Association for Talent Development’s Northern New Jersey chapter.

A professor since 2001, Jack teaches technical writing at Southern New Hampshire University. He received the accreditation in public relations certification from the Public Relations Society of America and the Certified Business Communicator designation from the Business Marketing Association. Jack also has a BA in communication from Ohio State University and an MS in journalism from Ohio University. He is studying for a PhD in organizational communication at the State University of New York at Albany. He can be reached on Twitter @writecoachJack and by email:
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