Five Leadership Communication Lessons from Charlie Sheen

Unless you’ve just gotten back from off-planet, you’ll have noticed there’s a certain buzz about Charlie Sheen these days. And there is a noticeably different tone in some of the public reaction to him that I find interesting. Unlike the sympathetic or patronizing response to Robert Downey Jr. and Brittany Spears, or the unanimous contempt for Mel Gibson, Charlie has gained some fans because of the way he’s communicating through his whatever-it-is.

Check out Twitter – #teamsheen is trending; that’s people doing Charlie shout-outs and aligning themselves with him. As strange as it is, his meltdown is being done in a way that people appear to find refreshing. It occurred to me on my way to work this morning that some of the things he’s doing are the same techniques we advise business leaders to use in their communications.

So here are five of the things Charlie Sheen is showing us about doing great leadership communications in 2011:

Be focused – Know what you’re about: Charlie is about Charlie, and he stays on message.

Be visible – Make sure you’ve got a media presence: You don’t have a message unless it’s being heard. If Charlie was having his episode in seclusion, there would be no buzz. Instead, he’s working hard, proactively getting his message out there. He’s doing the interviews and owning his press, and people are hearing him.

Be quotable – Your communications need soundbites: In his wild rants, Charlie is coming up with some hugely-quotable memes. The right expression has an energy of its own and, as ‘tiger blood,’ ‘winning,’ ‘plan better’ and others are showing, people will take powerful phrases and run with them.

Be accessible – Look for ways for people to connect with you: As the broadcast media swell started building momentum, Charlie moved onto Twitter, throwing gasoline on a fire of media presence by moving to where his fans are. He’s interacting with them and sharing personal pictures on Twitpic. As such, he just broke a record for fastest-acquisition of followers in Twitter history, over a million in just over 25 hours and picking up speed. Wow – he gained tens of thousands of followers in the time it took me to write this.

Be the leader – If you’ve committed to a direction, be confident about it: Charlie’s unapologetic stance to some highly questionable behaviour is winning fans simply because he is maintaining ownership of his direction and his enthusiasm for it.

On a personal note, I wish Charlie Sheen and his family well. Addiction is hard and I hope they all come through this okay.

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  1. Steve

    “d aligning themselves with him” If you can tell me where I can get multiple hookers, models, cocaine, call my boss and fire me, loose my children, tell the public that alcoholics anonymous is bullshit, mental health is a joke and bipolar is humorous, have a tour which middle aged middle class people go to see him make shit up as he goes along for the sum of $185, not use this an opportunity to say you have a problem and get treatment and be sucm all around yeah I will align with that. by the way are you hiring? I can be the next charlie sheen v2.0. I am in mississauga.

    • Tal Henderson

      Couldn’t agree with you more, Steve, that he’s spouting utter trash and is proving himself to be a complete trainwreck with zero credibility. The one thing he did pull off, though, was a pretty savvy bit of multichannel promotion. That said, we won’t be booking him as a key note speaker on the topic.

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