Anthony Arnone | September 23, 2019
Teaching Nike How to Lead
What does it take to be an effective leader? How does a leader’s communication affect their team’s workflow? These are a couple of the questions that Alex Lyon, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication at SUNY Brockport, has been working to answer for nearly 30 years.
“During my first few jobs out of high school, I started to notice a trend that my supervisor for the day set the tone for the entire workplace,” Lyon said. “Walking in, I already knew what kind of day I was going to have just by seeing who was in charge.”
Throughout both his college and professional careers, Lyon has focused on the topic of organizational communication with a concentration on leadership. He has been passionate about the importance of public speaking and workshopping. At his first full-time job out of college, Lyon’s supervisor allowed him to conduct a 20-minute workshop on listening skills for his colleagues — but it didn’t go according to plan.
“Everyone was looking around confused and wondering why they were there,” Lyon said. “Even though it didn’t go well, I really enjoyed the experience, and I knew I would continue because I wanted to do better the next time.”
Lyon now holds workshops for current and emerging leaders across the United States in consultation with local and world-renowned businesses. He has had the opportunity to work with Nike, Visa, Google, McKinsey Consulting, and more.
“At first, it was a little intimidating working with these big-name companies. You are thinking of the logo and the company behind it. But after I got there, I realized that these are just people who are eager to grow, and I was impressed by their lack of ego and willingness to learn.”
“At first, it was a little intimidating working with these big-name companies,” Lyon said. “You are thinking of the logo and the company behind it. But after I got there, I realized that these are just people who are eager to grow, and I was impressed by their lack of ego and willingness to learn.”
Lyon recently held two workshops with the Center for Homeland Defense and Security as a part of its Emergence program in Monterey, CA. The program helps emerging leaders in homeland security and public safety gain foundational leadership education. Aspiring and current leaders from the New York Police Department, Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other government agencies were in attendance.
“The workshop focused on the connection between communication and leadership,” Lyon said. “These people are specialists in their area, but being a leader is a lot more than that — you need to become a generalist.”
Across all of the companies that Lyon has worked with, he found one thing in common that they look for in a leader, regardless of their field of work — their ability to communicate effectively.
“Most people believe that if they are the best coder or best writer at their job, they will eventually get that promotion that they want and lead,” Lyon said. “They don’t realize that is only a part of being a leader. Companies are looking for someone that can problem solve, effectively communicate, and work with their subordinates in a way that is efficient for everyone involved, and that is what communication is all about.”