I believe the answer to the question, “Are all great leaders great communicators?” is a resounding “Yes.” However, when I make this statement during interviews or speaking engagements I frequently get push-back that generally sounds something like this, “I worked for a fabulous leader once and she was not a good speaker at all.”
Let me be clear, I am not saying that all great leaders are great orators. While all great orators are great communicators, not all great communicators are great orators. It’s a little bit like what we learned in elementary geometry: all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares. That is about all I remember about geometry, by the way. It wasn’t my best subject.
Back to the topic of great leaders and communication though. Communication skills are the foundation of an effective organization and the basic building block of leadership. Great leaders must be great communicators. Leaders must be able to craft a compelling vision, obtain buy-in to that vision and assure execution. They must be able to engage, energize and mobilize staff to take the actions necessary realize results. And all of this requires exceptional communication skills.
What are the communication skills required to be a great leader?
While some of the communication skills required to be a great leader overlap with the skills required to be a great orator, there are differences as well. Here are six communication skills required to be an extraordinary leader.
Know your audience: Whether you are speaking to an audience of one, an audience of thousands, or somewhere in between you must understand the wants and needs of your audience and your message must appeal to these wants and needs.
Connect: Great leaders connect. They are authentic and congruent in all they say and do – paying attention to both the verbal and non-verbal message they are sending. Through this congruency they build trust.
Ask questions first and listen next: Before you tell anybody anything ask questions. Questions are one of the most underused (and powerful) communication tools we have available to us – second only to listening. If you want to be an even more effective communicator and develop exceptional leadership skills start asking more questions and listening longer.
Keep an open mind: Excellent communicators resist making assumptions, jumping to conclusions and making judgments. They invite and encourage two-way dialogue – including dialogue that questions their ideas and assumptions.
Plan your message: Outstanding communicators plan their message and their delivery. They know the purpose and the desired outcome of their communication. They appeal to logic with stats and to emotion with stories. And they deliver their message repeatedly through multiple channels.
Choose your words wisely: Great communicators pay attention to the words they use. They are specific and use words to create pictures in the minds of those they are communicating with. They avoid putting people on the defensive and they know what words to use and which ones to avoid.
Communication skills are not only the foundation of successful organizations and a building block of effective leadership. Communication skills are the foundation of success in every area of life. Communication is the building block of all human interaction. It is not just leaders who must be great communicators. Success in every aspect of our lives requires strong communication skills. Building those skills is the single most effective thing you can do to assure success. So get started now.
Download your copy of the free eBook: Leader-Language™: How to Choose Your Words to Get the Results You Want (without sounding pushy, passive or pompous).