Why Communication and a Peer Network Help Build Effective Leaders

Fern_communication and peer network August 30, 2023 By: Sue Fern

To become a leader capable of propelling your team and organization forward, it’s crucial to develop a leadership support group and be a strong communicator. Cultivating both will allow you to become more self-aware and effective.

During my professional journey, I have held senior positions at major global companies and associations, plus served a diverse clientele, including large corporations, governments, and nonprofits.

Through my 30 years of experience in leadership roles, I have also found that executives who want to deliver exceptional results need to cultivate a strong support network and be effective communicators. Here’s what I’ve learned in those two areas that I hope you’ll also find helpful as you navigate your own role as a leader.

Finding Mentors and Peers

Mentorship is a key component to effective career growth. It’s important to build a network of guardian angels who can help guide you along the way.

One place to find mentors is through your various professional communities. For example, ASAE has various volunteer groups and online communities geared toward executives, including the Executive Management Professionals Community [ASAE member login required], where you can interact with others who are in similar job roles and use their insights to enhance your own leadership approach.

I also became a member of the Florida Society of Association Executives, joined the board of FSAE’s foundation, and attended every CEO weekend I could. Our group discussions were confidential, and everyone felt comfortable asking for help. It was an outstanding experience, as I gained so much knowledge and insights. By getting involved with groups that align with your interests or goals, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with people who can offer valuable advice.

In addition, make sure to surround yourself with peers who are willing to hold you accountable. If you surround yourself with people who just say yes, you risk becoming disconnected from your community and your members.

Being involved with my local chamber of commerce and business networking groups gave me ample opportunities to meet peers in the community. I was able to interact with a variety of business leaders who provided many perspectives on different ideas and solutions, and I could also ask them for feedback on my own ideas.

While it may feel uncomfortable at first, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and start building relationships. By developing a strong support network, you’ll be better equipped to lead your team and organization to success.

Developing Your Voice

The words we choose and the way we express ourselves affect how others perceive us and our message. That’s why it's important to be mindful of language and communicate clearly, respectfully, and effectively. By doing so, you can build stronger relationships, avoid misunderstandings, and achieve your goals more efficiently.

To start, think about the words you commonly use to work with staff, members, and volunteers. Are they clear, and do they allow for effective communication? Everyone likely has room for improvement. What I’ve found helpful is taking training courses that improved my public speaking skills and showed me how to share my message in a positive and compelling way. By doing this, I've been able to attract the attention of those around me and achieve great success.

I’ve also improved my communication skills by observing and studying other successful leaders. This also includes reading and listening to the ideas of those whom I consider having a high ethical standard. Doing so has allowed me to incorporate some of their methods into my own approach.

To excel as a leader, you must possess the ability to listen, evaluate, and resolve conflicts effectively, as well as establish trust and belief among team members. You can do this by learning and listening to others around you.

Sue Fern

Sue Fern is CEO and founder of Fern Management Services.