1 Idea, 3 Facts, and 5 Tips
Describing effective communication as a 2-way street is passé. Communication is much more complicated, and leaders at all levels need to know much more than the mechanics of sending and receiving information.
Here are some things to remember about communication for leadership:
Why Is Communication Important in Leadership?
It’s critical. Communication is a core leadership function and a key characteristic of a good leader. Effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined. Leaders need to be skilled communicators in countless relationships at the organizational level, in communities and groups, and sometimes on a global scale.
You need to think with clarity, express ideas, and share information with a multitude of audiences. You must learn to handle the variety of information within the organization, and among customers, partners, and other stakeholders and influencers.
3 Facts About Communication for Leaders
1. Authenticity counts! Be honest and sincere. Find your own voice; quit using corporate-speak or sounding like someone you’re not. Who you are, where you come from, and what you value must be the essence of your communication. Be vulnerable and share your authentic self. So forget about eloquence — worry about being real. Don’t disguise who you are. People will never willingly follow someone they feel is inauthentic.
2. Visibility is a form of communication. If you want to communicate well, don’t be out of sight. Don’t be known only by your emails and official missives. Be present, visible, and available. Find ways to interact with all of your stakeholder groups.
3. Listening is a powerful skill. Good communicators are also good listeners. When you listen well, you gain a clear understanding of another’s perspective and knowledge. Listening fosters trust, respect, and openness. Active listening is a key part of coaching others. Ask questions that open the door to what people really think and feel. Pay close attention to what is said — and what’s left unsaid.
5 Tips for Leaders to Communicate More Effectively
1. Communicate relentlessly. Communicate information, thoughts, and ideas clearly — and frequently — in different media. Keep processes open and transparent, and find ways to help smooth the path of communication for your team or organization. Shed all traces of detachment and arrogance and take the time to talk to your community.
2. Simplify and be direct. Say what you mean. Be direct. Don’t hide behind complexity or pile on a ton of information. Simple communication can be smart communication.
3. Listen and encourage input. Pause. Be okay with silence. Encourage the other person to offer ideas and solutions before you give yours. Show interest and respect for your colleagues with a collaborative approach. Provide effective leadership traits in value, empathy, and awareness.
4. Illustrate through stories. When you tell a good story, you give life to a vision, goal, or objective. Your narrative creates trust, captures hearts and minds, and serves as a reminder of the vision. Plus, people find it easier to repeat a story or refer to an image or quote than to talk about a vision statement, strategy document, or project plan.
5. Affirm with actions. While effective leaders master the art and craft of language, speaking clearly and presenting logical and compelling arguments, skilled leaders also know that communication goes beyond words. If people hear one thing from you and see another, your credibility is shot. People need to trust you. Your voice and body language communicate a world of information. Choose to deliver a clear and concise message in all forms of your communication.
Leaders Communicate with Actions and Attitude
Communication can disclose the leader’s authenticity, sincerity, and virtually every other aspect of a leader’s character. When a leader is all talk and no substance, people see right through the official message.
So what does a leader’s communication style say about his or her character?
Consider what effective leaders do when they communicate well:
- Handle resistant audiences;
- Listen to individuals from all levels of the organization;
- Encourage direct and open discussion;
- Initiate difficult, but needed conversations;
- Are clear about expectations and ask good questions;
- Involve others before developing a plan of action.