Top Communication Skills for Success as a Leader

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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.

Top Communication Skills for Success as a Leader

So, what are these top communication skills for success as a leader?

1. Respect

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.

2. Empathy

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.

Top Communication Skills for Success as a 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.  

If you liked this post, you might also like:

7 Signs That Your Team Has a Communication Problem

Why You Can’t Help Others If You Sacrifice Your Needs

How to Get Employees to Do Their Job… And Enjoy It!

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette, M.Sc.(A) works with middle managers who want to communicate authentically so they can effectively lead their teams without losing themselves. As a former Speech-Language Pathologist, Lindsay applies her expertise in the neuroscience of communication and connection to help managers foster an environment of trust and respect in their teams, so that everyone can bring their best selves to work.

Lindsay’s approach has been profoundly influenced by her work with First Nations organizations, her experience as a parent to two neurodivergent children, and the premature loss of both of her parents. These experiences have taught Lindsay great lessons about the power of excellent people skills that extend well beyond her professional expertise.

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette, M.Sc.(A) works with middle managers who want to communicate authentically so they can effectively lead their teams without losing themselves. As a former Speech Language Pathologist, Lindsay applies her expertise in the neuroscience of communication and connection to help managers foster an environment of trust and respect in their teams, so that everyone can bring their best selves to work.

Lindsay’s approach has been profoundly influenced by her work with First Nations organizations, her experience as a parent to two children with pervasive mental health challenges, and the premature loss of both of her parents. These experiences have taught Lindsay great lessons about the power of excellent people skills that extend well beyond her professional expertise.

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Hi, I'm Lindsay

Leadership communication skills to elevate team performance.

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