10 leadership communication skills
When you think of leadership communication, do you picture great orators like Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King, Jr.? Maybe you imagine speaking to stadiums of thousands or giving TED Talks that get millions of views. These types of leaders are incredible public speakers, but that’s not why the world finds them so inspiring.
Leadership and communication are all about vision, passion and values. When you lead with your heart, tap into your emotional intelligence and understand how to listen, others are drawn to you. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, puts it succinctly: “The best leaders are great communicators and listeners.”
Effective leadership communication can help you grow from an average leader into a transformational visionary. Start working on these skills right now.
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1. Start with self-awareness
Tony says that “The greatest chokehold on the growth of any business is always its leader.” A company is only as strong as its leader’s psychology. If you haven’t learned to master your emotions, develop your emotional intelligence and build resilience and inner strength, you have work to do before you can begin to think about leadership communication. Start with self-reflection and build from there. You cannot begin to know how to inspire others until you know yourself.
Effective leadership communication always starts with building rapport, and building rapport always starts with listening. Pause: Comfortable silence gives others a chance to speak. Ask for opinions before you give your own to avoid confirmation bias. Focus sincerely on the other person’s wants and needs over your own. And make eye contact, give nonverbal feedback and be fully present. These deep-listening techniques build trust, a crucial part of leadership and communication.
3. Ask the right questions
When you ask the right questions, you get better answers. This is the essence of leadership communication. Let people air their complaints, then ask clarifying questions that get to the root of the problem. You might be surprised how often your employees will come up with their own solutions. Asking the right questions will also help you uncover others’ communication styles so that you can increase your own influence on their decision-making processes.
4. Be honest
You’ll never be able to earn trust if you don’t come across as authentic. People love leaders who are real with them. Be honest not only about who you are, but about what you have to say. Don’t sugarcoat bad news and don’t delay giving good news. Be direct. Don’t provide unnecessary information or make an issue more complex than it needs to be. Honest, straightforward leadership communication will help you align expectations and build trust.
5. Align your actions
We’ve all heard the saying, “Do as I say, not as I do” – and we all know that it just doesn’t work that way. If your actions aren’t aligned with your words, you’ll never earn the trust of your employees or be able to inspire them to greatness. Ensure your policies are aligned with your leadership values. Treat others with respect and empathy. Keep your office door open. Attend company events – and have fun. Leadership and communication follow when you connect yourself to the work.
6. Answer the “why”
When we’re told to do something, most of us don’t do it blindly. We naturally wonder, “why?” Answering the why makes leadership communication more persuasive and effective. Always follow your directives with a “because…” statement that explains your reasoning. Share ideas you didn’t choose and describe why not. This shows you’ve considered alternate perspectives and explains why your decision is the best one.
7. Tell a story
Humans are hardwired for storytelling – we’ve been doing it since we first sat around a campfire. If telling a story fits with your message and is an appropriate communication style for the situation, this can be one of the most powerful leadership communication skills. You can use stories to give context, create meaning or teach a lesson. Just beware of coming across as self-centered or a know-it-all. Take the time to learn how to tell a great story and you’ll strengthen your leadership communication.
8. Master body language
You may have heard the statistic that communication is 93% nonverbal and only 7% verbal. While the numbers aren’t exact, there’s no doubt that mastering body language is a vital leadership communication skill. Using your own physiology to mirror others can help you build rapport and influence. Understanding others’ body language and tone of voice also helps you read between the lines of what others are saying. What isn’t being said is often even more important than the words.
9. Stay adaptable
Our preferred way of communicating has to do with our leadership style: visionary leaders can be prone to long stories, affiliative leaders to deep listening and commanding leaders to straightforward statements. But one of the most essential – and hard to achieve – leadership communication skills is the ability to effortlessly switch between styles or even combine styles. Master this and you’ll be able to influence anyone, anytime, anywhere.
10. Communicate constantly
There’s no such thing as too much leadership communication. Make sure you’re communicating to all stakeholders at every level of the organization, and that you’re doing it on a consistent basis, as well as when anything important happens. Constant communication is how you will spread your leadership vision and inspire others to follow you on this crazy journey we call life.