Lesser-Known Communication Skills of Great Leaders
To lead effectively, you must learn to communicate effectively. Discover what communication skills great leaders are hiding up their sleeves.
By Jack Nodding, 28 June, 2019
Point blank. If you can’t communicate, you can’t lead. Or, at any rate, lead well. Effective communication skills are the defining factor that separates extraordinary leaders from the more… lacklustre ones.
And with that in mind, perhaps it’s time to put some oomph into your leadership, with these eight communication skills!
Communication Skill #1 Active Listening
Active listening is a key communication skill for effective leadership. Great leaders know that communication is a two-way street. They have ears. And they use them!
Leaders who are great communicators don’t think ahead. They don’t just “sit tight”, waiting for their turn to jump in. They actively, attentively, and truly listen to the other person’s perspective.
Basically, leaders who are great communicators don’t hold the talking stick hostage. They allow others to speak and take the time to really understand their point of view.
By actively listening, leaders skilfully communicate empathy with followers. It shows that they’re open to feedback and willing to hear the other person out. All of which is crucial for building relationships of mutual trust and respect!
Communication Skill #2 Give Constructive Praise
Giving praise is one of the most powerful communication skills out there for leaders.
Because nothing creates results quite like a little positive persuasion!
Praise is that secret communication skill leaders use to align, motivate and drive employees towards an end vision. It boosts morale and productivity. But a word of warning: praise needs to be wielded correctly.
The same, cookie-cutter, praise doesn’t work forever. Words lose their meaning after enough repetition, wear and tear. So, good leaders skilfully mix up the praise they communicate. From an appreciation of work efforts, personality traits, project heroes or unsung workplace heroes, the choice is yours.
Good leaders also know where to draw the line. They give constructive praise. As in, praise where its due. They look for moments of a job truly well done, to keep leading employees in the right direction.
Communication Skill #3 Read Non-Verbal Language
Now, communication goes far beyond words. And so, the best leaders are skilled in nonverbal communication. They are always tracking people’s reactions to their message and looking for ways to develop non-verbal rapport.
Tapping into non-verbal cues (facial expressions, tone of voice, body language) allows leaders to gain feedback, tailor their message, and adjust their communication style to better match others. It basically gives leaders a gauge of what the other person is “saying” behind the words.
And non-verbal communication isn’t a one-way street. So great leaders also learn how to manage their own non-verbal signals. The ensure their verbal and non-verbal messages are congruent to comprehensively convey their message. Aka, make sure nothing gets lost in translation.
Communication Skill #4 Create Feedback Loops
Leaders who are skilled in the fine art of communication never assume the message people heard is the same one they intended to deliver. Even if they have their non-verbal communication down to a tee.
Leaders who are skilled communicators solicit feedback to verify that their message was understood correctly. And in its entirety. It’s how they make sure that followers are working (in unison) towards the desired end goal.
The best communicators know that feedback loops foster understanding. And so good leaders encourage and create feedback rich work environments. They ask and are open to receiving employee feedback. The good, the bad and the ugly.
And it is this openness to feedback that allows leaders to boost workplace engagement, participation and productivity. All of the right conditions for leadership success!
Communication Skill #5 Delegating Clearly
Superior leaders, with superior communication skills, are clear and concise. And when it comes to the art of delegation, the art of clear communication is a critical skill.
The best leaders state expectations with clarity. And they ask others to repeat it back to ensure everyone’s on the same page. No point wasting time (and money) heading in the wrong direction, right?
When handing off a task, effective delegators also create a blueprint and provide resources for accomplishing the desired outcome. They document potential pitfalls and steps on how to avoid them. And THEN delineate a plan of attack.
Another part of delegating is checking in. Regularly engaging is a key communication skill when it comes to delegation. It’s how leaders ensure any concerns and/or complications are raised and resolved.
Communication Skill #6 Speaking Honestly
Honesty is a critical communication skill for building workplace trust and collaboration. So, when it comes to communication skills, the best leaders know that honesty is the best policy.
They are willing to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Even if it may be uncomfortable or unpopular. And this level of honesty engenders the same openness in others.
Now, this last part is important because open communication is the lifeblood of an organisation. So by skilfully communicating (honestly), leaders create open relationships of trust.
Followers trust that they can communicate openly without judgement. Which, ultimately, enables employees to seek information, ask questions, offer feedback, engage and collaborate.
Communication Skill #7 They admit their mistakes
When great leaders make mistakes, they admit them. And straight away. They don’t wait for others to point out their blunder; they don’t zip their lips and hope they get away with it.
The best leaders know that vulnerability is not a weakness, but rather, the ultimate strength in leadership! By “fronting up”, leaders model accountability for their words and actions.
It’s how leaders demonstrate their responsibility (and ability) to hold a leadership role and earn the respect of those they lead. Which makes admitting mistakes a crucial communication skill.
Admitting mistakes adds a level of transparency in communication. It’s how leaders garner trust and keep lines open for honest exchange. Employees no longer fear being blamed for leaders’ mistakes, and as a result, are more willing to own up to their own!
Communication Skill #8 Adapt to different communication styles
Leaders need to truly connect with the people they’re trying to lead in order to lead them. And if a leader doesn’t communicate in a way that resonates with their follower/s, those followers will be difficult to motivate.
Tailoring communication styles is a key skill for leaders because everyone has their own communication styles. And so, the best leaders observe and tailor their communication to their audience.
Altering communication styles is a critical skill in fostering deeper understanding. It allows leaders to build rapport and convey empathy. Both of which are critical factors in persuading, influencing and inspiring others.
When it comes to leading, communication is key. It’s how great leaders inspire and drive their people towards the desired outcome.
And if you can’t communicate where your heading, you’ll have little luck getting people to follow you there. So, perhaps it’s time to address whether or not your communication skills need a little fine-tuning!