A leader may have all other attributes; but if he comes short of good communication, his organization will record more groans than gains. Of course, good communication skills aren’t the only thing a leader needs to achieve corporate success. If the leader lacks all other attributes such as love, courage, technical skills, visioning, judgment, and dynamism, his good communication skills will achieve nothing. You don’t build and run a world-class company with a sheer gift of gab.
Are you a leader at the helm of your organization? And you think you’ve got all it takes to keep the organization running and moving up? But if good communication skills aren’t among your credentials, your leadership is heading for storms. Effective leadership without effective communication is impossible.
Communication is central to leadership effectiveness because it is something all leaders must do – and always do – to succeed. Can you name anyone among the 100 top world leaders in any field who isn’t good at communicating? In fact, down the ages, men who aspired to lead knew they had to have the ability to communicate well; otherwise, their leadership would end in a fiasco.
The Biblical Moses appreciated this ability and confessed he lacked it. It was one of the reasons why he besought God to send someone else to lead Israel on a risky journey to Canaan. Moses didn’t take the job until God promised the smooth-talking Aaron would help out.
The importance of communication
A leader shuns communication skills at his organization’s peril. Without good communication abilities, the most brilliant of all leaders will fail to deliver on the bottom line. For, his organization’s synergy will rupture, the workforce will be fluid, visioning will fail to catch, and progress will be a fantasy. How? Workers need to be wisely “talked into” commitment, loyalty, and higher productivity. And bosses who snort at such pep talks may watch their employees leave in droves. Monte Enbysk, Microsoft’s lead editor, claims that a study in 2001 of 20,000 exit interviews found that people leave jobs chiefly because of supervisors’ poor communication skills. So, it isn’t the poor pay that makes most workers leave. It’s the leader’s poor communication.
Also, communication serves as a potent weapon of influence especially when workers need the motivation to buy into the leader’s progress plans. For example, consider visioning. You may birth a vision alone; but you would need your team’s support to shape, launch and actualize it. You would need to share the vision such that the workforce catches it, develops a passion for it, and resolves to be committed to its actualization. Sir, you have no other means of doing this save by communication!
Though not all people in your team are willing to follow you on the vision trip and most of your workforce might comprise people who are content with business-as-usual, who are ready to suffer inertia gladly so long as wages and fringe benefits are paid, the communicative leadership style would help to keep the organization running and moving up.
Even in religious organizations, key leaders and workers aren’t quick to accept radical measures for lifting the organization above conservative levels so long as they feel good and secure in the organization’s routine existence.
Hence the necessity of convincing the team that progress is necessary, and fresh ideas are required to attain new levels. They would need the motivation to buy into your progress recipe and be committed to it until your organization attains a new height. How do you go about achieving all this? By communication! Even if the nature of your organization permits that things remain fairly the same for a long, you still would need to keep the people on their jobs by communication. You would always have something to tell your subordinates; who relay your message to other leaders down the hierarchy and throughout the organization.
Thus, without communication, you can’t function. Progress needs much planning, coaching, visioning, coordinating, counseling, evaluating, and supervising which are also the basic leadership functions. Effective leadership without effective communication is impossible.
Explaining leadership communication
Leadership communication is a cyclic flow of messages and feedback. The sender sends the message through a channel to the receiver; who receives it and sends feedback to the sender. And the cycle continues as long as the process lasts.
Leaders still in love with inflexible top-down command-and-control leadership style miss this point and its advantage. They issue instructions and orders but seldom pause to find out if they are heard. They hardly wait for feedback, stopping the communication before it runs its full cycle. Later, they wonder why “Smith and John never do exactly what I say”. Leadership communication is an exchange. The sender and the receiver swap encoding and decoding roles; and feedback travels in both directions.
Leadership communication is “not just a give, as all parties must participate to complete the information exchange”. Doing this calls for effective listening by leaders – a communication skill only a few leaders know how to practice! A leader’s failure to listen effectively turns communication into a monologue, robbing the organization of the gains that interactive communication attracts.
Moreover, effective leadership communication thrives in a good working climate. I mean the non-monetary working conditions that make the workforce feel wanted, appreciated, fulfilled, and secure. The critical presence of this element in the communication cycle makes communication a kind of human relations. There is always the need for leaders to check on human relations aspects of their communication before they encode their message.
Thus “Whenever you intend to communicate as a leader, you should assess not only the information you want to impart but also the human relations aspects of how you will go imparting it…” So as to be able to use leadership communication as an instrument of inspiration for sustainable productivity and change.
Furthermore, leadership communication isn’t a success joker in conflict times. You don’t communicate with your subordinates only when you have some ideas to sell or when you want to pass on a dream. You communicate to keep your organization’s energy and synergy steady, steadfast, and sure. You also employ communication to mobilize and motivate your workforce for change.
In essence, you keep the organization running through communication. Selective use of leadership communication is counter-productive. Communication is vital both in good and bad times. In times to keep hope alive and dissuade workers from leaving when the going was tough as well as in times to praise and appreciate workers when the organization soared into smooth sailing.
Good communicators are made, not born. Which means you can study and practice leadership communication. You can assess your performance now and see where and what you need to improve on. And then take remedial measures.