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Effective Communication Skills for Leadership

The most critical success factor in any business is – Effective Communication!

“The single best problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” – George Bernard Shah

After all, if a company can communicate a greater perceived value to a target market than its competitors can provide, it has obviously won over its competitors.

What is Communication?

It comes from the Latin word for ‘common’ or ’shared’.

It is the activity by which people and organisations exchange meaning and understanding amongst themselves, usually for a purpose.

You can use communication to differentiate yourself and increase the attractiveness of your business as well as yourself.

The impact of communication is based on three components:

  1. Verbal: the words you use
  2. Vocal: how you say it
  3. NonVerbal: What you don’t say…

First let’s discuss the role of a leader.


What do leaders have to do?

In short, the role of a leader can be summarised as follows:

  1. Effectuation
  2. Communication
  3. Influence and Persuade


How do effective leaders communicate?

"Communication is the real work of leadership” – Nitin Nohria

Great leaders spend the bulk of their time communicating. However, all types of communication works – it needs to be simple and relatable.

Good communicative leaders need to:

  1. Have a talent for simplicity
  2. Have a knack for saying things in few words
  3. Understand the people they're trying to reach
  4. Have clarity and communicate assertively

However, there is one thing that differentiates the communication styles of charismatic leader from any normal leader – charismatic leaders are masterful listeners!

  1. They are interested in and sensitive towards people
  2. They listen with humility – They are ‘You’ oriented – They CONNECT!

When Aschinese spoke, they said “How well he speaks.” When Demosthenes spoke, they said “Let us march!”

We all more or less know other aspects of effective communication. Therefore, in this article, we will concentrate on one thing (often neglected) – listening.


Listening can make or break your communication

Troubled teenager having an individual session with a therapist

Listening is one of the four major communication skills:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Speaking
  4. Listening

However, it is the most neglected of the four!

Listening Skills are generally considered a purely biological phenomenon. Hence, it is seldom taught!

“The biggest block to personal communication is man’s inability to listen intelligently, understandingly and skilfully to another person.”


So, why do leaders have to listen?

1. Listening is a pre‐requisite to problem‐solving
2. Sales, Marketing and Service are about listening to customer needs and wants
3. A manager who listens effectively

  • Avoids costly mistakes
  • Reduces paperwork
  • Saves time


What Leads to Poor Listening?

The mind is faster than the tongue –

The speaker speaks at around 120 words/min. However, the listener can process around 500 words/min. Therefore, this ‘idle capacity’ leads to:

  1. Selective listening
  2. Day dreaming & distraction – Inner ‘television screens’
  3. Attempts to multi‐task

There are other barriers to listening as well:

  1. Physical barriers such as cell phone
  2. Psychological barriers such as antipathy or bias towards speaker, lack of (listeners’) confidence (or sometimes, overconfidence on the part of the listener!), pre‐conceived notions or ‘closed’ mindedness.


What do good listeners do?

Good listeners:

1. Use ‘idle capacity’ constructively:

  • Pay attention to the structure
  • Listen for the idea rather than the words
  • Summarize and synthesizes
  • Weigh the evidence and evaluates

2. Listen with an open mind
3. Seek clarity by asking relevant questions
4. Give effective non‐verbal feedback



What do you want to be – just any other leader or a charismatic one?

If your answer is the latter –  master the art of listening!



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