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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

5 Skills for Effective Communication in Leadership

Good communication is a core leadership function and a key characteristic of a good leader. Effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined. As a leader, you need to be a skilled communicator in countless relationships at the organizational level, in communities and groups, and sometimes on a global scale in order to achieve results through others.

Leaders must be able to think with clarity, express ideas, and share information with a multitude of audiences. They must also handle the rapid flows of information within the organization and among customers, partners, vendors, and other stakeholders and influencers.

Being an effective leader is virtually impossible if you lack strong communication skills. The good news is that it’s possible to cultivate and hone skills that will help you excel in both areas. Here are 5 skills to enhance leadership and communication:

1. Adaptability

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

As a leader, you must constantly react to changing conditions, factors, and challenges while keeping a level head. In a professional context, adaptability refers to your capability to remain flexible and respond effectively to fluctuating plans, responsibilities, schedules, expectations, trends, goals, or work processes. As such, adaptability is related to other soft skills critical to strong leadership, including creative thinking, analytical, interpersonal, and teamwork abilities.

It’s also essential to be adaptable in how you speak and write so that you can tailor your messaging to best reach and influence team members with different communication styles. For example, some employees may appreciate detailed written guidance when embarking on a new project, while others may prefer a concise verbal direction or summary. Although some of this may be intuitive, it’s always beneficial to speak with your reports early on about their communication habits and preferences so that you can determine what works best for them.

2. Empathy

“One of the criticisms I've faced over the years is that I'm not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I'm empathetic, it means I'm weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong." – Jacinda Arden

Leading and communicating with empathy is crucial to your success as a business executive, manager, or director. The better you are at recognizing, acknowledging, and validating the feelings and experiences of your employees, the more valued they will feel and the more likely they will be to meet your goals. Accordingly, it’s important to schedule regular communication meetings with your team so you can get to know them better, including their professional experiences, challenges, and goals.

To be an empathetic leader, it’s also vital to express genuine curiosity about the people you work with and take a personal interest in their lives, which helps to build stronger relationships.

The many potential benefits of empathetic leadership include the following:

  • Creating trust, appreciation, and loyalty
  • Enhancing employee engagement and motivation
  • Improving collaboration and empathy between team members
  • Increasing job satisfaction and productivity

In other words, connecting with and relating to your team can have a lasting positive impact on your employees and your company.

3. Transparency

"The people, when rightly and fully trusted, will return the trust." – Abraham Lincoln

Being transparent involves openly and candidly sharing information with your team about your company’s high-level goals, challenges, and opportunities—regardless of whether the information is good or bad. Being transparent will keep your employees informed and build trust between yourself and your team, which is critical to performance. Through transparency and trust, you can also empower employees to take healthy risks, share their perspectives freely, better collaborate and innovate, and actively problem-solve.

You can help to create a culture of transparency in the workplace by establishing clear communication channels and well-defined expectations and providing regular feedback on how your team and organization are progressing in their goals. It’s also imperative to create an open environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up when their opinions don’t align with leadership. This can involve implementing regular anonymous surveys or scheduling short meetings to check in and allow employees to share their thoughts or ask questions.

Without transparency or trust in the workplace, communication and morale suffer, employee stress increases, and productivity decreases. But when you are authentic and vulnerable with employees and readily share insights and discuss rationale, you can create a space in which your team feels secure in exploring—and voicing—their creativity. If you involve your employees in aspects of the decision-making process, they are more likely to feel engaged and loyal to your organization, to the benefit of everyone involved.

4. Active listening

"I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said." - Thuli Madonsela

Active listening is critical to effective leadership communication. It’s a skill that involves hearing what people say and trying to understand their words' meaning and intent. Fundamental active listening techniques include being fully present in your conversation, responding to and using non-verbal cues, asking open-ended questions, avoiding interruptions, judgments, or advice, and reflecting on what you’ve heard. When you practice active listening, the goal should be to understand and empathize rather than to respond.

When you practice active listening skills as a leader, you can help create a stronger rapport with your team by showing that their opinions and ideas are heard and valued. When you know when to speak and when to listen, you can encourage productive conversation, build trust, and create an opportunity to better understand your employees' motivations, challenges, and goals. An essential component of active communication is maintaining open body language. This involves making good eye contact, refraining from folding your arms, and smiling and nodding while you listen.

5. Ability to give and receive feedback

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” – Winston Churchill

If you take on a leadership role, it will be your responsibility to give feedback effectively and receive it thoughtfully. Providing clear and constructive feedback to your employees through routine communication gives them the chance to course correct as needed, leverage their strengths, and improve their overall efficiency and effectiveness. Some tips to help you provide helpful feedback include focusing on the behavior rather than the person, balancing negative comments with positive ones, and referring to specific examples to support your statements rather than focusing on generalities.

If you want to become a better leader, it’s equally important that you can receive feedback from your employees. Strong leaders appreciate that they are fallible and must constantly learn and grow. And who is better to provide constructive criticism of your leadership skills than those directly affected by them? When you receive feedback from team members, it’s essential to be open and aware of your body language and tone of voice, try to remain objective rather than defensive, ask questions for clarification as needed, and assess the input to create an appropriate action plan.

For ages, leaders have been motivators who have encouraged others to work on themselves and achieve their goals. This ability of great leaders results from the effective communication skills they possess. It is believed that effective communication is linked to great leadership skills and that many successful leaders like Abraham Lincoln have been strong communicators. Therefore, effective communication skills are a prerequisite to becoming a successful leader. So, what is the role of communication in leadership?

Communication skills help leaders to define the goals of team members clearly. It also helps understand team members’ goals and desires and solve their grievances. Effective communication skills also help foster an open and good rapport between leaders and their teams, which increases productivity and efficiency. Therefore, it is clear that effective communication skills play an important role in leadership.

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