On Leadership and Communication: A CEO Shares His Thoughts
Leaders do much more than manage people. They must also know how to guide, influence and inspire individuals, teams and entire organizations. Leaders must know how to communicate and motivate, while adapting to varied personalities, circumstances and crisis situations.
The following excerpts are from an interview with Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. This leading environmental-advocacy organization is dedicated to protecting the water, land and wildlife of a five-county area in Southwest Florida. Moher oversees an organization with 60 employees, 500 volunteers and 8,000 donors.
On developing a leadership style:
I would describe my leadership style as collaborative. I believe in my role as “chief obstacle remover” for my team. I am here to provide overall guidance and direction and to support my leadership team, which allows them to mobilize their teams and cross-departmental teams to accomplish defined goals.
On communication style and self-awareness as a leader:
I am a diplomatic and responsive communicator. I try to make sure that any ego is checked before I start my day. I am here to advance the mission of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Any success we enjoy as an organization involves many people. We also stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. That is important to remember.
Coming out of the development/fundraising arena taught me to adjust my communication style to the audience or individual to whom I am speaking. What do they want to hear about? How much am I listening, versus talking? I try to be prepared with a focused message when engaging with various constituents.
A presentation to a fishing group will have a fundamentally different tone and content than a presentation to an elected official. Meeting with a 90-year-old wildlife lover, who enjoys sharing family stories, requires a different communication style than meeting with a former CEO of a large corporation who may want to keep the conversation casual and shorter. You have to adjust your own communication style to make the other person feel comfortable.
On motivating stakeholders:
I use a layered communications strategy: personal letters and notes to key members of our team, walking around the campus at least twice a week to check in with people in a casual manner, recorded video messages to reach members and volunteers, and live events to communicate with other audiences. I also use email lists and distribute a “message from the President.” Our social media team amplifies these communications for broader distribution.
On the importance of ethics for leaders and communicators:
I believe strongly that we should treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. I try to remember to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Complaining does not change anything. We need to lead by example. If we feel that mental health is important, for example, then I should demonstrate care of my own mental health and provide adequate resources and policies to support our team.
On the importance of mentors:
I have been inspired by and learned a great deal from several very successful board chairs and board members whom I have had the pleasure of working with over the years. They have all mentored me in different ways, but I have learned so much from each of them that I value greatly.
Those lessons include the importance of first impressions; of succinct and well-organized meetings; and of never judging someone’s motives, among many other pieces of wisdom.
On leadership in building company culture:
I have been told that success in leadership — and in developing a positive organizational culture — occurs when the CEO is not in the room, but when everyone acts as if he or she were there. When senior leaders have adopted a culture that reflects the values of the CEO and the organization, and these are replicated, that means the culture has moved forward and is not dependent upon the CEO being present to set that direction.
On advice for aspirational leaders:
There is much to learn from many people around you. Take time to understand the wisdom hard-earned by those with different experiences than your own. It is priceless. Network with others in and outside of your field. You will learn much and build valuable future relationships that help you lead.