The three resolutions you must make for 2015 are as easy as ABC.

1. Don't come across as Arrogant.
2. Take precautions against being Boring.
3. Learn to clarify your messages so you're not Confusing.

Why are these key? They all stand in the way of your ability to make a connection with the people around you. And making connections is what effective leadership is all about.

1. Guard against arrogance.

Arrogance makes us claim for ourselves qualities that we don't in fact possess. To be arrogant is to have unrealistic feelings of superiority. Most of us are turned off by arrogance. We find it offensive.

But let's face it, being in charge is a big responsibility, so some of us either contract psychologically or we puff ourselves up to project something bigger.

Both approaches undermine the essential task of effective leadership, which is to build a personal connection--an emotional connection with a listener. Two things can help you avoid the trap of arrogance.

  •  The willingness and ability to give people the experience of knowing you.
  •  Giving them the experience of being known. Nothing is more powerful. Make eye contact when they speak. Listen to their words but note their gestures and facial expressions as well. Repeat ideas back to them to be sure you've got it right.

2. Guard against being boring.

Unfortunately, being real does not prevent people from being boring. My goal as president of my own company is to have inscribed on my tombstone, "He Bored Them Less."

Try the following.

  • Be funny. Learn a few good, clean jokes. Something you can use to break the ice, fill in awkward gaps in conversation, or lighten a mood in a tense situation. There are plenty of resources--books, websites, radio channels. And don't forget anecdotes--personal stories can do double duty as they are entertaining and invite people in to get a glimpse of your world. It's a fun job because you'll laugh while you're doing your research.
  • See things from your listeners' point of view. Question: What are people most interested in? Answer: Their own problems. If you can demonstrate an understanding of the problems people face, your solution to their problems will seem that much more heavenly, and believe me, they will listen.
  • Use the right tool. Speaking is not the ideal forum for communicating massive amounts of information: The written word is more suited for that task. The spoken word is best suited for capturing the imagination, weaving stories, and arousing emotion. Use the right tool for the job.

3. Guard against being confusing.

In a nutshell, confusing messages and conversations are avoided by having a clear, strong voice and a well-thought out plan.

Here are several ways to approach the problem.

  • Boost your vocal presence. Remember the low talker on Seinfeld? Jerry's inability to understand her lands him in a puffy shirt on national television. People like people who are clear when they speak. We don't want conversations to be hard work or rife with misunderstandings. A good speaking voice isn't boring because it sparkles with change, changes of pitch, volume, and speed. And your listeners understand you the first time.
  • Keep it interactive. Encourage people to ask questions. I hate it when I don't understand what someone is saying and I'm not allowed to ask questions. I find that I stop listening. It's like having an itch that I can't scratch. Keep your eyes on your listeners. Watch for facial expressions that signal confusion and jump in. But don't say, "Joe, you look confused." Blame it on yourself. Say, "I suspect I wasn't clear enough. What's on your mind?"
  • Strike a balance. Wise men and women have said that most of the troubles of the world come from two profane tendencies in human nature: (1) treating as simple, things that are complicated, and (2) making too complicated, things that are simple. Keep it simple. Real simple.

Bottom line? Be accessible, interesting, and clear.

Published on: Dec 10, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.