When we think of leadership skills we typically think of the usual suspects: Decisiveness, integrity, relationship-building, problem solving, and dependability - to name a few.
However, there is another, more unassuming leadership skill that is experiencing a renaissance:
The ability to write.
In their book ReWork, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson suggest, "Being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is the sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. Writing is making a comeback in our society. Look at how much people email now rather than talk on the phone. Writing is today's currency for good ideas."
In a day when social media and digital communication are becoming increasingly widespread, people assume formal writing skills are no longer needed. This notion is terribly misguided, as the increased focus on electronic media make writing skills more precious than ever.
Take a look at school district social media feeds. Timelines are now being littered with long-form letters and detailed reports. Gone are the days when school communication is only shared with staff members. Communities are demanding information is shared in a transparent and timely manner. More than ever, school leaders being asked to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) for the purpose of keeping stakeholders informed.
Beyond public communication, savvy leaders understand effective writing can be leveraged into increased productivity. While crafting a message takes time, skillful leaders realize when they address questions and concerns ahead of time, they will eliminate many time-wasting emails and conversations that would arise in the absence of a memo.
Furthermore, some leaders may insist written communication should be completed by others, such as a secretary, direct report, or communication director. While delegation makes sense for procedural writing such as press releases, formed letter writing, and routine events, leaders would be wise to tackle situations that demand additional context and perspective. Not only will the message feel more authentic, the leader will also appear more genuine.
Writing is not going away. Writing skills are going away.
Smart leaders will take advantage of this opportunity and use writing to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Looking for another great book discussing the importance of written communication? Consider reading Everybody Writes by Ann Handley.