Writing is an important leadership skill that is often overlooked. It is unlikely that you will ever see writing at the top of any list of important leadership skills. For a leader to be effective they must communicate their outlook, vision and worldview to the people they are leading. A leader who cannot communicate well using written words is going to be severely handicapped.
Another reason leaders need to write is to help them develop and clarify their ideas. Much of what makes someone a good leader is his or her viewpoint and perspective. Someone who makes good decisions usually does so because of how they look at problems. Someone who instinctively does the right thing will often have a difficult time explaining their decision-making process to others.
A leader who doesn’t take the time to develop and refine ideas and viewpoint can still be successful. But they will have a difficult time replicating their skills in others. You can’t teach someone to have the same “gut feeling” as you.
Leading Through Communication
It is possible for a leader to lead without using written communication. We have examples of many leaders who were unable to read or write. However, leadership greatly depends on communication and in modern times much of our communication is written. Written communication gives people a source to refer back to. If you only communicate verbally, there is no real standard to refer to if someone has a question.
It is also much easier to hold people accountable for something that you’ve communicated in writing. By putting your thoughts into words you give people a concrete standard that they can reference. Making your thoughts concrete can help align everyone’s efforts toward the same goal.
Clarifying Your Thoughts
Writing also gives you the opportunity to clarify your thoughts and better understand what you really think in your subconscious. Writing gives a leader the chance to privately develop their way of looking at problems in a way that can be communicated to others. In this sense, writing gives leaders a method for organizing and clarifying their thoughts. It allows them to take what they know instinctively and make it something concrete that can be conveyed to others.
This clarifying process can be immensely helpful in explaining strategy. Often a good leader will know what to do instinctively. However, the instincts of a single person are difficult scale for a large organization. Writing down the thoughts behind your instincts can allow you to replicate your skills in others.
The writing process can help you understand your decision-making methods in a deeper way. This makes it easier to teach your way of doing things to others. Often it will provide you with deeper insights into how you can make better decisions as well.
Writing isn’t the most important skill for a leader to possess. However, it is a very valuable skill to develop and practice because it lets you replicate and improve your other skills.