There are a few communication-related skills at which most exceptional leaders excel.
They’re able to navigate difference of opinion to get their team on the same page. They inspire others to follow their lead. They have the skills needed to bring out the very best in every single member of their team.
So, what are these top communication skills for success as a leader?
Respect is the foundation to effective communication. When leaders and their teams don’t respect one another, it will lead to a culture that is full of heightened conflict.
When we approach one another with respect, even when we disagree and are disappointed with one another, we’re able to have the hard conversations needed to lead a team to success.
It’s important not only to demonstrate your respect for your team members, but also to ensure that this expectation is clear in terms of how team members treat one another. If you observe team members treating one another disrespectfully, it needs to be addressed right away to keep your culture of respect solid.
Today, more than ever, people need to feel heard and understood.
When someone’s experiencing a challenge, restrain yourself from sharing an idea or solution. Instead, let them know that you understand what they’re going through. This doesn’t mean that you’ve been through it yourself and you know exactly what they’re dealing with. It simply means first connecting with the person on an emotional level and holding space for what they’re going through, without trying to fix it.
For example, if someone says, “I’ve had a hard time managing the kids and working from home lately”, if you start talking about how it’s been hard for you too (or your sister or neighbour) and give some suggestions they can try to make it easier, then you’re stepping away from empathy.
Instead, try responding with an empathetic statement such as “It sounds like you’re dealing with a lot right now”.
3. Setting good boundaries
Tell people what you need and when you’re unable to meet their needs. It’s as simple (and yet hard) as that.
Having good boundaries is crucial to your success as a leader. The higher you move up in an organization, the more important it becomes to have clear boundaries because your decisions (or lack thereof) will impact more and more people.
Knowing when you need to say no is crucial to being able to communicate effectively with your team.
4. Direct communication
I often see people who think they are expressing their needs directly, but they’re not. In reality, they share clues as to what they would like done, but aren’t explicit enough about what they would like the other person to do. The other person is then left needing to infer, or read between the lines, to figure out exactly what is expected of them.
Practice being very direct in your communication. Tell people exactly what you need. At first, it may feel uncomfortable if you’re not used to it. But if you’re doing so kindly and are also willing to listen to their perspective, you’ll see that people will respect you for being up front. This approach gives them clear information so they can adjust their behaviours consequently.
5. Flexible thinking
Flexible thinking means being able to see a situation from multiple perspectives. This is an executive functioning skill and it contributes to our ability to understand a situation from someone else’s perspective. It enables you to understand the impact of a decision not only from your point of view, but from the point of view of all stakeholders, both internal and external. It puts you in a better position to mitigate any potential problems.
Flexible thinking also allows us to change or adapt our thinking based on new information coming in. It’s a key skill to being an effective leader.
Leaders who demonstrate these above 5 skills regularly are the types of leaders who are spoken of highly. They’re the kind of leaders and managers who we still think of 20 years after we’ve stopped working with them, because we remember the great impact and influence they had on our lives and the world.
If you’re looking to become a leader that everyone wants to follow, I’d invite you to take my quiz to find out if you have the communication skills needed to be promoted to a leadership position.
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