There are very few (if any) good leaders who aren’t good communicators. Communications skills are integral to effective leadership. That doesn’t just mean being able to speak confidently in front of a room full of people. Developing good communication skills is more complex than that and can take time and practice to master. According to this Forbes article, here are five communication skills every leader must know, understand and exercise.
1. Listen. A truly great leader knows when to speak and when to listen. Effective leadership is not talking at people or barking orders; it is engaging in meaningful conversations and listening to team members’ ideas, thoughts and feelings, even if — especially if — they oppose the status quo. Astute leaders also know how to listen when no one is actually talking and how to break the silence.
2. Gain trust. Great leaders can’t be great without people who believe in them and support their efforts, and people won’t support someone they don’t trust. When people think a leader is worthy of their trust, they will invest time and take risks in ways they never would if they didn’t feel safe. Leaders have to gain their supporters’ trust over time. It can’t be forced or demanded. It has to develop organically and be based on right acting, thinking and decision-making.
3. Engage on a personal level. The more personal a conversation is between two people, the more relevant and effective it usually is. A good leader knows where to draw the line between personal and professional, but also knows how to blend the two in an appropriate and comfortable way so that team members feel safe and validated and ready to give their best effort. Leaders who hide behind processes and corporate jargon never truly connect with their teams and therefore don’t see optimal performance from their teams.
4. Be open-minded. One of the most dangerous characteristics a leader can have is a closed mind. Not being open to hearing others’ views, opinions, experiences and positions is a good way to limit opportunities. Not being interested and curious is a great way to stunt growth potential. When leaders willingly seek out opposing viewpoints with the goal of gaining insight and perspective (not with the goal of changing minds), they reach a whole new level of effective leadership.
5. Make your words count. Simple, specific and concise always work better than complicated, ambiguous and rambling. Time is everyone’s precious commodity, so it’s important that a leader knows how to make a point clearly and concisely.
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