Quick. Think of a famous leader from history. Got one?
I’m sure when you thought of this person, you likely pictured them in front of a podium, delivering a powerful message to a large group of supporters and cynics.
It is no coincidence that you envisioned your chosen leader while they were communicating. Their role requires it. Exceptional communication is one of the most important skills that leaders must master to be successful.
Why is communication important in leadership?
Leadership communication is important because it provides an outlet for missions, visions, values, goals, tasks, and new ideas to be shared with a team. No leader can carry a team to success without sharing those pieces of information.
Without strong leadership communication, nobody would know of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Asking yourself what you can do for your country would be an idea exclusive to John F. Kennedy. And nobody would have accepted the fact that Lou Gehrig actually retired from baseball after leading the Yankees to six World Series victories.
Image courtesy of WUNC
While those leaders provide good examples of how to speak powerfully, you don’t have to be a famous historical figure to master leadership skills. To help you out with communication, we’ve put together a quick guide for any Average Joe to become skilled in leadership communication.
How to improve leadership communication skills
Becoming a leadership communication expert doesn’t happen overnight. Work on implementing these seven tips as you lead your team to guarantee solid leadership communication.
1. To inform, you must stay informed
People look to leaders for advice, guidance, and, you guessed it, the information they need to do their job.
This one might seem obvious, but knowing the ins and outs of the topic you are discussing is an important leadership communication skill. People pick up on your lack of understanding of the topic you are communicating, and won’t pay attention if the information has no value. Be active in seeking worthy insights that benefit your team. This includes internal marketing messages that keep all departments up to speed on developments within the business.
Don’t be ashamed if you don’t understand absolutely everything. You can’t know it all. Refer the person who asked the question to someone with that information, or ask that person yourself and relay the information to the person that needs it.
2. Be authentic
Even though you are the boss, you can still show some personality.
Authenticity is the key to being an engaging leader. Leadership communication is about providing your team with the information they need to do their job and contribute to the company’s success. This can still be done with a personal touch. Don’t get stuck communicating like a robot programmed to strictly speak in industry terms and corporate lingo. Let your character and personal values show through the message you construct and the way you present it.
Don’t fake who you are when communicating, no matter how serious the message. They’ll see right through you. And nobody respects a phony.
3. Show empathy
Effective leadership communication requires your ego to be put on the shelf. Similar to being authentic, empathy should be shown when communicating with your team.
It is hard to willingly be led by someone who doesn’t understand your situation. How can you show empathy in your leadership?
Put yourself in the shoes of your team members when crafting messages for them.
Anticipate the questions and concerns that might be presented to you.
Figure out what your team might request, inform yourself on that matter, and either include it in your initial message or be prepared to present it if it comes up.
Showing empathy in leadership communication shows your employees that while you may be their leader, you are still a team working towards common goals.
4. Get personal
Nobody likes being talked at. Yes, leadership communication includes situations where you may present a lot of information at once. Most of the time, however, when presented with a large amount of material, people will have comments, questions, and concerns. Open up the conversation for them to share these with you and the rest of the group.
Structure your professional conversations like personal conversations. Just make the content relevant to your business.
5. Listen to understand
It is one thing to send a message to a large group. It is another to take the time to listen to what they have to say.
Because listening requires you to focus, it is up to you and only you to ensure this possible. Make yourself available and approachable. There will definitely be times where you are busy or hard to reach, but set aside time to hear from your team about whatever it is they need.
When a team member is talking to you, give them your undivided attention. Put the pen down, shut the laptop, and lock the phone. Use nonverbal communication cues, such as eye contact and head nodding, to show them you are engaged in what they are saying.
Shut up and listen to your team. Their insights are just as valuable as yours.
6. Keep an open mind
When listening to your team, be open to their creative ideas and constructive criticism.
Any internal communication expert will tell you that feedback is necessary for effective communication in a business. Be open to new ideas for projects or procedures that come from the team you lead. Your employees are your best resource for improving conditions in the workplace. They experience the way your business works every day and are exposed to the flaws in the system.
When approached with something that sounds far fetched or off-kilter, don’t shut it down right away. Consider what your team has to say. Sleep on it if you have to. Taking time to mull it over will help you come to a decision while also showing them you cared enough to contemplate it.
On the more personal side, people may present opinions that differ from your own – this doesn't necessarily mean you're going to have to deal with a difficult employee. Take the time to hear them out. This is a great way to better understand and empathize with your team members.
7. Simplify the information
When communicating information to their team, a great leader will always make it as simple as possible. Whether a team is learning something for the first time or getting updates on topics they are well versed in, hiding key takeaways behind unnecessary details benefits no one.
Being able to make complex information simple is the true sign of knowledge on a topic. Be direct with your team. Give them all of the necessary information and tasks they need to complete while sprinkling in details only where they will help them move forward.
Nobody has time for useless details. Simplify your leadership communication messages to save you, and your team, some precious time.
Be a boss communicator
Leadership communication is the backbone of team success. Without it, team goals and valuable information that helps reach them would be lost. Taking the extra time to work on your leadership communication skills will improve the relationship you have with your team, which should be your number one priority as a leader.
Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 in Chicago, where she is currently exploring topics related to sales and customer relationship management. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, listening to cover bands, or eating fish tacos. (she/her/hers)