A good leader needs to learn how to communicate effectively. Through communication, leaders inspire and unite people around a common sense of purpose and identity. Stong leader communication is purpose-directed, and an important element is persuading others to act in ways that achieve common goals and accomplish organisational vision.
Leadership communication is persuasive in nature, and there are four steps for practising the art of persuasion:
- establish credibility
- build goals on common ground
- make one’s position compelling
- connect with others on an emotional level
Leaders may use stories and metaphors, formal and informal communication to get their message across. Leaders are generally advised not to overly rely on electronic channels. Electronic channels, though swift, is less personal. Moreover, electronic channels may increase the potential for communication errors. They are also not suitable for communicating complex or sensitive messages.
An effective leader knows how to communicate with others so that they are influenced and motivated to perform actions that further common goals and achieve desired outcomes. Strategic conversation is a key leadership communication skill. Strategic communication refers to communication which takes place across boundaries and hierarchical levels about the group’s or organisation’s vision, critical strategic themes and values.
Leaders engage in strategic conversations by
- actively listening to others to understand their attitudes and values, needs, personal goals and desires;
- setting the agenda for conversation by underscoring the key strategic themes linked to organisational success; and
- selecting the right communication channels and facilitating dialogue.
Four key components necessary for strategic conversations are:
1. Open Communication
Open communication means sharing information throughout the company, especially across functional and hierarchical levels. This differs greatly from the traditional top-down of information from supervisors to subordinates.
People need a clear direction and an understanding of how they can contribute. Open communication is essential for building trust. It paves the way for more opportunities to communicate with followers, thus enabling the organisation to gain the mindshare and support of employees.
2. Active Listening
Listening well is an essential component of good leadership. It is imperative that a leader listens actively. Working relationships become more solid based on trust, respect and honesty as a result of active listening.
Active listening is a must-have leadership communication skill. It is through active listening and discernment, both with followers and customers, that leaders identify strategic issues and build productive relationships that help the organisation succeed.
One of the most rewarding kinds of listening involves discernment. Discernment involves detecting the unarticulated messages and undercurrents hidden below the surface of spoken interaction, complaints, behaviour and actions. A discerning leader pays attention to patterns and relationships underlying the organisation and those it serves.
4. Dialogue And Exchange
Dialogue occurs when active listening and attention to unspoken undercurrents spread throughout the organisation. Dialogue is active sharing and listening in which people explore common ground and grow to understand one another and share a world view.
A dialogue requires the participants suspend their attachments to a particular point of view so that a deeper level of listening, synthesis and meaning can emerge.
Leadership Communication About Change
As a change leader, communication is the primary and most important tool. There is no substitute for good judgement, and change leaders need to be reflective and thoughtful about the ways they communicate.
There is also no substitute for active listening and receiving feedback from staff and colleagues about how the leader communicates. Therefore, the first task a leader must undertake after assuming his or her position is establish leadership communication channels.
A leader may make communication mistakes, but the mark of an effective change leader is that these mistakes are quickly identified through feedback and discussion, and corrective action is taken.