Effective leadership demands interacting with people in a way that motivates and energizes them. This requires communicating in a manner that goes beyond just relaying information. The most successful leaders inspire others, build connections between people, and create alignment throughout the organization.
While it’s true that some people have innate talent in these areas, communication methods and habits are also skills that can be taught and refined. Knowing how to communicate effectively in a one-on-one conversation, in small groups, and to a large audience is one of the hallmarks of a strong leader. This level of competency does not develop overnight, but like all skills, it can be taught, practiced, and developed. Leaders at every level must learn strong communication skills in order to execute organizational strategies and maintain or grow a business.
Connection and Inspiration
People in an organization look to the leaders for direction on how to behave. When leaders speak with confidence and optimism, it inspires those around them. On the other hand, when they are worried or unsure, the message becomes clouded. Clear communication is most critical in times of crisis or transition, but it’s important to maintain a consistent message and tone at all times. Learning how to communicate with conviction will help leaders inspire others to believe in the organizational vision.
Regardless of the size of the organization, individuals, teams, and leaders must feel connected. Excellent communication skills that cultivate connections require both speaking and listening. Great leaders listen to employees and are therefore able to respond in meaningful ways, which creates stronger connections. Soliciting and responding to feedback from employees on a regular basis, not just during annual reviews, helps develop open channels of communication and better rapport between leaders and employees.
In order for teams to operate productively and successfully, they must be in alignment with organizational goals. Clearly articulating the vision for the company is essential for building alignment. This includes defining the strategic direction and communicating organizational values in internal company memos and policies, as well as external messaging. Leaders must learn how to share company goals and values in a way that resonates with others to generate buy-in and build alignment.
In addition to articulating the vision, leadership behaviors also send a strong message. Great leaders recognize that not all communication is verbal and actions often speak louder than words. Modeling the behaviors that support organizational values is essential for building alignment from the top down. When leaders’ actions are in keeping with the desired culture and values, others are more likely to follow suit.
In order for great ideas to get off of paper and into reality, teams of people must execute the strategies that leadership has developed. Successfully communicating goals to both senior leadership and employees is the first step. From there, team leaders must articulate the path forward and ensure that the people doing the work understand why they are doing it and how it will get done. To do this, leaders at every level must have the necessary communication skills to successfully implement strategies.
Opening two-way channels of communication is also critical for successful execution. Whether it’s sharing lessons learned, suggesting more efficient processes, or letting a manager know that they need support in a certain way, when employees are comfortable providing feedback, the entire team benefits.
Communication is important at every level of an organization, but especially for leaders. Their words resonate more and have more meaning—and, unfortunately, so does their silence. Great leaders understand the importance of communication and continually work on building their skills to inspire others, listen to those around them, create alignment, and execute strategies. Including communication skills in your leadership development program will help ensure that managers and executives get the necessary training to become world-class communicators.