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Communication Skills for Effective Leaders

Some people are great leaders and organizers. They can create objectives, gather data for market forecasts, and meet deadlines. However, these skills may not come naturally to everyone in a leadership role. Some leaders may need help connecting with employees, motivating them, and using conflict resolution strategies to ease tensions. One way to learn how to become an effective leader is by doing. You may have recently moved into a management position or want to improve your leadership skills. To be an effective leader and communicator, you must tailor your ideas and opinions based on your audience, whether employees, clients, or stakeholders. Learn more about effective leadership strategies and how to learn the skills to be a better communicator.

What is Effective Leadership?

An effective leader understands a company's vision and employees' motivations to ensure everyone and everything moves in sync to reach the same desired goals. You have the leadership skills to motivate employees to stay productive and meet project deadlines. You also inform stakeholders regarding the company's status while defining operational outcomes.

Leaders have distinct traits that may be inherent or learned. They possess emotional intelligence, empathy, organizational skills, decision-making, and trustworthy qualities. A great leader clearly understands what work needs to be done, who is the best employee to accomplish the tasks, and how to motivate them to complete the tasks. You also have mediation skills to settle employee disputes while creating a positive, diverse, collaborative workplace.

One key trait used throughout the enterprise is communication skills—all the organizing tasks and roles for projects, managing employees, and meeting with stakeholders. An effective leader must be able to communicate clearly and concisely to form relationships, handle disputes, and oversee the workings of operations. Whether in person, over a Zoom meeting, or in email, the leader has to ensure the information relayed becomes understood by everyone involved.

Vital Communication Skills for Leaders

While communication is a skill in and of itself, several other nuances are at play. Keep in mind that communication can come in many forms and not just by you giving verbal responses.

Active Listening and Empathy

To be able to communicate and form business relationships with others, you need to understand their ideas, opinions, and motivations. Active listening and empathy involve actively participating in the conversation while seeking to understand the other person's point of view. In active listening, you can absorb and retain the information presented by consciously participating in the conversation. You allow everyone to speak and take cues on when to engage in dialogue. You also display empathy by being able to relate to their stories.

Clarity and Conciseness

Often, a project goes wrong due to misunderstandings regarding job roles or tasks. Speaking clearly and concisely lets you convey all the information at the right time so people are on the same page regarding company operations. Clarity and conciseness are essential for verbal communication with a team member and written communications or presentations. This method often prevents employees from making errors with work or having them ask you to explain yourself again.

Nonverbal Communication and Body Language

Sometimes, you can provide communication without saying a word. Nonverbal communication and body language can convey a message at the right time and are often effective in getting a point across or expressing an emotion. Walking into the office with a smile and nodding to team members can convey a sense of camaraderie, strength, and self-confidence. For example, leaning in a bit during conversation can demonstrate your interest in the subject and speaker. .

Building Trust and Rapport with Your Team

You want to be a leader trusted by your team and connected to where they know their roles and are confident regarding your decisions. You will need to build trust and rapport with the team to accomplish this. Building trust depends on transparency in your actions and following through with what you say. Honesty with your words and actions helps build strong relationships with your team.

Tailoring Your Message to Different Stakeholders

Stakeholders will have different objectives and goals that may impact the company. Stakeholders include investors, employees, customers, suppliers, communities, and governments. You won't always use the same messaging for each group. Instead, you want to listen to the stakeholders' interests and modify and adjust the message to suit that audience.

Common Challenges and Barriers to Effective Communication

You may need some help with providing effective communication to your team members. Knowing the challenges and creating contingency plans allow you to overcome the issues so projects stay on track.

Language Barriers

With offices in other countries, you may have to speak with stakeholders, employees, or clients who speak different languages. Others may have a limited vocabulary when speaking your language and need clarification when conversing.

Cultural Barriers

There will always be certain traditions that employees and clients have based on their location. These traditions may be challenging when forming business relationships or interacting with others. Make sure to be mindful of cultural sensitivities and be respectful when interacting with people with different cultural or traditional values than you.


Ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings regarding deadlines, tasks, and job roles in the office. To avoid ambiguity, give clear information and chat with those who may have interpreted your directions differently.

Noise and Distractions

Workplace environments with a lot of noise and distractions can impact production and how you speak with others. Chaotic workplaces create distractions, making it more challenging to get employees’ attention when attempting to relay the necessary information and motivation needed to complete tasks. One way to combat this is to ask everyone in a meeting to leave their phones at their desk or to turn their cameras on in a virtual meeting. Limiting noise and distractions means your team can focus on the information given.

Emotional Barriers

Emotional barriers can impact how you and your employees communicate. These barriers could come from sore feelings over gaining a leadership position or jealousy between coworkers. To overcome emotional barriers, be sensitive when approaching the topic causing challenges. Consider bringing in a mediator if you think a meeting will turn hostile, or prepare suggestions to overcome the situation.

Lack of Listening Skills

Listening skills need to go hand-in-hand with communication skills. Sometimes, some team members will not listen when you provide information. Some team members may tune out their surroundings to better concentrate on their work or simply not respect authority figures. They may even think their ideas are better than those shared by their colleagues. If teammates aren’t listening, it can hinder their reception of your ideas or instructions as a leader.

Hierarchical Barriers

Employees who move up the corporate ladder and become a manager or take on a leadership role can create a power dynamic in the workplace. Some workers may think they should have gotten the role or lack the skills to be the leader. For others, taking a leadership position may cause them to feel a sense of entitlement and harmfully micromanage the office. These hierarchical barriers can create tension within the workplace atmosphere and make people feel unsafe.

Lack of Feedback

Great leaders are always eager to improve their skills by talking and listening to their employees. However, as a leader, you may not receive feedback from team members or your direct supervisor. Some employees may feel that there is no open-door policy. They may think that their constructive criticism could be taken the wrong way or that management will retaliate against them. Communicating with your team is essential to assure them that there are no consequences for honest feedback and that you genuinely want to grow from their feedback.

Physical Barriers

One example of a physical barrier that can impact leadership communication is location. You may be a remote worker living in a different time zone who cannot attend specific meetings, or you could live too far from the office. The lack of face-to-face interactions and no alternative communication method can make it difficult for workers to stay motivated. Consider ways to bridge the gap with remote workers, such as holding a virtual happy hour for people to “drop in” when they are available. 

Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills as a Leader

Asking for Feedback

Don't be afraid to ask for feedback when you seek to improve your professional career as a leader of a company or organization. Listen carefully to what your coworkers and colleagues have to say and try to inject their advice into how you perform tasks.

Continuous Improvement

There are always areas in your daily work that you can improve on. Seeking continuous improvement allows you to hone strong skills and overcome weaknesses to become a great leader. Some ways to further develop your skills include taking leadership program classes, shadowing leaders, seeking mentorship, or networking.

Public Speaking and Presenting

Practicing any new communication skills or improving existing ones is always a great idea. Seek out opportunities to speak to individuals or groups, especially those willing to provide feedback, such as at public speaking events or presentations.

Utilizing Technology

Whether working in an office, remotely, or in a hybrid combination, you can improve your communication with others by seeking out apps and devices. Numerous meeting and scheduling apps are available based on the type of device you use, such as a laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

Improve Communication Skills With eSpelman

When learning how to be an effective communicator to enhance your leadership skills, the main steps are identifying the challenges holding you back, seeking feedback, and learning essential qualities to improve your interactions. You can also take a program course in your spare time.

At Spelman College, we offer an online certificate in Leading Self, Leading Others through their eSpelman virtual program. This program is geared toward adults who want to learn leadership, communication, and management skills. Learn new leadership skills or hone existing ones to further your career success. Contact us to learn more.