In my productive work, I enforce one tenet over all others: communication. Communication layers have to be established in a workplace and within an organization and zealously implemented. I do. Miscommunication, improper feedback/follow-up can throw a spanner in the works or have disastrous consequences. My brief in this context is clear, concise and dictatorial: you MUST communicate, respond, participate, listen, speak. And what about me, the guy who leads from the front? Do I have to do this myself as well, or am I exempt from this? Businesspeople come a dime a dozen, but what is the key ingredient that separates businesspeople from leaders? If you answered that they should be excellent communicators, then you hit the nail on the head!
Here is a list of several key communication secrets of leaders:
1. They Are Active Listeners
Those who are great communicators know that the first step in communicating is being an active listener. Leaders do not just talk “at” somebody. They allow their audience time to ask questions and contribute input to the discussion. On both ends of the conversation, they face the other parties and maintain eye contact. They do not interrupt another speaker, and they demonstrate attentive listening in their body language. They offer feedback when requested or welcomed.
2. They Know Their Target Audience
Great leaders know that the secret to connecting with their audience is to engage them. Just like teachers engage their students’ interest, so does a leader with great communication skills. They know their audience’s general concerns, values, and lifestyles. They connect their examples to these points to keep their communication relevant.
3. They Share Their Expertise
In order for leaders to communicate effectively and to be taken seriously by their audience, they need to have expertise on the subject matter they present. Audiences can easily detect whether the speaker is strong and confident in their knowledge of the content they discuss. Excellent communicators validate facts or opinions with solid support to back up their claims. This earns the respect of their audience who will perceive them as a credible and expert source.
4. They Are Genuine
The best leaders talk to their audience in the relaxed manner they would with a good friend. They do not sound as if they are negotiating a stiff business matter. They know that sounding more natural sets a warm and positive tone with their audience. They present themselves as down-to-earth in their speech and in their mannerisms.
5. They Are Truthful
Every great leader communicates with honesty and integrity, and they actually have it! They know that audiences can see right through a façade. They know that the way to earn trust with their audience is to speak truthfully. When a member of their audience asks an awkward question, they answer tactfully. They are direct in stating if the answer contains information; they are not at liberty to disclose.
6. They Tell Stories That Connect
When successful leaders have a point to communicate, they often use short stories that connect to the listeners’ lives, feelings, and needs. These are mostly based on their own experiences and reality. This will usually conjure up images in the minds of their audience that evoke emotion and really resonate with them.
7. They Make It Personal
One of the major communication secrets of leaders is to make it personal for each individual. When they direct whole groups as individuals, they can make a deeper connection with their audience. More personal and direct communication develops a stronger rapport with each person and, therefore, gives speakers greater credibility.
8. They Entertain
Great leaders know that one of the best traits of a great communicator is being able to inform and entertain at the same time. When the speaker makes his audience laugh, he knows it is more engaging for his audience. A more engaged audience is a more attentive audience.
9. They Communicate Strategically
Leaders strategically develop the content of their communication. They use outlines when delivering speeches and focus on making a valid point in their written correspondence. Regardless of the communication method, the one function it should always possess is delivering information with an objective. The objective should fill some kind of need in the audience, or inspire and motivate them to take action towards a goal.
How To Culminate All 9 Of The Communication Secrets Of Leaders
On an individual basis, the communication secrets of leaders outlined above are pretty straight forward and fairly easy to accomplish. However, culminating these communication skills is not so easy. If it was easy, there would be a great deal more leaders and a lot fewer arguments among people! So, how do some great leaders manage to accomplish that?
Keep the list above handy and keep returning to it to reread it. Think about the purpose and audience of your communication. Carefully review each secret to see how they can apply to the format of your communication. For example, how would they be applied to different settings?
Just as there are no cookie cutter solutions to every problem, so do different modes of communication command different approaches for different settings. A business meeting in a conference room would be enlightened with an entertaining quip, but it might not be appropriate in a letter or email. With this in mind, perhaps one more communication secret of leaders would be that they have discernment for knowing what to say and when to say it.