Communication is an integral part of leadership. How does a leader communicate confidently? Whether presenting high level strategy at a meeting or having a difficult conversation with a subordinate, the leader who has confident actions communicates a positive message. However, many times management training does not include a course in “people management”. These “soft skills” are the first to be cut from struggling HR programs. Interpersonal skills are a foundation for success for both new and seasoned managers. The acquisition of these skills separates “fear-based” leaders from “trust based” leaders who have had the training to evolve their leadership philosophy and plan. Here are 4 practices that improve leadership communication:
Be Ready to Improvise- The ability to think on your feet is critical for an effective leader. This skill takes practice. It is useful to stick to a formula: give an overview, provide key details, paint a picture with a relevant anecdote, and close with a one sentence overview. Brevity is the key to improvisation. Instead of rambling or going around in circles, the speech should be concise without business jargon or flowery words. A clear focus ensures that when a high-stakes opportunity arises the communication delivers results.
Have Confident Body Language- Research studies have found that 7% of any messages is verbal, 38% is vocal elements, and 55% is nonverbal. Nonverbal body language elements include facial expressions, gestures, posture etc. A leader who is aware of his nonverbal body language is training his leadership muscle. Confident body language is a firm handshake, a relaxed posture, strong eye contact, and smiling. Details like upbeat tone of conversation and energetic demeanor speak volumes. Words are never the whole story
Tell a Good Story- The role of a modern leader is complex, he must be a good speaker, writer, negotiator, and even storyteller. A trust based leader knows the value of a high impact story. The kind of story that touches the audience emotionally and motivates change. An effective leader weaves stories into his communication strategically. Whether presentations or conversations, telling a good story is a requirement for transformative leadership.
Practice Perspective-Taking- 90% of managers lack the sophisticated leadership communication skill of perspective-taking. It is the ability of “getting into another person’s head”. This is something that get easier with the practice of consciously stepping outside of one’s head into another’s perspective. A good exercise is to keep track of the conversations, emails, and texts that transpire during the day. A mental dissection of the difficult or frustrating interactions can be an opportunity to see the perspective of the other side. What were their motivations? Where are they coming from? An awareness of other people’s intentions can be helpful in surmounting communication obstacles. A seasoned leader develops higher-level communication skills like perspective-taking to elevate trust.
In a corporate world that is driven by communication, a leader is only as effective as his message. It is fundamental that leadership training involves lessons on the ability to think on your feet, the importance of displaying confident body language, the art of compelling storytelling, and the transformative practice of perspective-taking to empathize with another person. These lessons contribute to the development of a leadership philosophy, one that enables the leader to communication from a place of trust.