The way you communicate as a leader is important. The right tone, the right voice, the right body language. These elements are as important as the words you say, sometimes even more so.
It’s no secret that good leaders are also good communicators. And the best leaders have learned that effective communication is as much about authenticity as the words they speak and write.
“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.” – Lawrence Clark Powell
The top five habits of highly effective communicators
Good listening is among the most important, and overlooked, principles of great communication. Don't zone out when someone else is speaking, and make sure that your own body language indicates your interest. Maintain eye contact and respond with small gestures that show you are listening and receiving the message. If you have any doubts about what you're hearing, try paraphrasing or repeating back what you have heard.
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I'm going to learn, I must do it by listening.” – Larry King
2. Let your values come through in your communication
Use language that’s distinctly your own. Often, executives will opt for the sanitized “corporate voice” instead of their own because they think the former is more eloquent; more appropriate. This is not to say that correct grammar and use of language aren’t important — strong leaders know how to string a sentence together. But don’t fixate on eloquence; concentrate on being distinct and real. People want real. People respect real. People follow real. Don’t disguise who you are. Be genuine, and people will respect you for it.
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” – Mother Theresa
3. Wait your turn
If you're anxiously waiting for an opening so you can jump and speak, you are not really listening. Train yourself not to think about interrupting other speakers but instead to make sure they have had their say before you begin speaking.
Interruptions can take other forms than just speaking over each other. For instance, mobile phones going off, starting to listen to music or watching the TV while conversing with someone, are all ways in which we can lessen the ‘integrity’ of our listening to someone.
“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It's like riding a bicycle or typing. If you're willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” – Brian Tracy
4. Listen with more than your ears alone
Stop, look and listen. Remember that effective communication is two-way. Good leaders know how to ask good questions, and then listen with both their eyes and ears. It’s easy to be so focused on getting your message out — or persuading others — that you don’t tune in to what you see and hear. If you are in a position of authority, the stakes are even higher because you won’t always get direct feedback. You need to read between the lines. Listen and hear what is coming back at you. Look for the nonverbal cues. Sometimes a person’s body language will tell you everything you need to know.
“I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” – Albert Einstein
5. Keep the questions simple
You learn the most when you keep your questions simple and open-ended. Why, what, when, where, and how are still the gold standard. If you ask the right questions you will always find the right answers.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes