People have a wide variety of expectations surrounding the communication of a good leader. When you assume a leadership role, there are expectations from those who report to you and from the organization. Understanding exactly what’s expected of you can help you to prioritize and know what traits or skills you may need to work on to become the best leader you can be. Some of the most common expectations of leadership communication include:
- Clearly communicate the roles and responsibilities of each team member. The members of your team each have a unique role, and it’s important that what’s expected of each of them is communicated clearly to them. It’s also essential to have the ability to delegate tasks and to know what each employee’s strengths and weaknesses are. Part of clarifying responsibilities is unifying the members of the team and helping them to feel connected to each other.
- Be able to communicate both positive and negative feedback. In a leadership role, you have to be able to offer both encouragement and correction. Let team members know you notice when they are doing a great job, but at the same time be prepared to give feedback to your employees that may not always be positive. When you do give negative feedback, you have to know your employees well enough to know the best way to approach criticizing their performance or explaining things that may need to change. Always treat employees with respect, whether the feedback you’re giving is good or bad. Never be condescending.
- Communicate the vision of the company and the goals of the team. Leaders are responsible for communicating where the company is heading and how the team can contribute to the vision of the organization. The members of your staff need to be on the same page when it comes to understanding the goals of the organization and where the department fits into a larger plan.
- Know how to inspire and motivate employees. Employees need to not only know what’s expected of them but also why it’s important. Those who excel in leadership roles have the ability to lift up their employees and help them to feel inspired and motivated, especially when faced with stressful times such as staffing shortages or big changes such as a merger. Set an example of enthusiasm and positivity.
- Take charge of mediating or working through conflict. If there’s a conflict between team members, your team looks to you to make sure it’s sorted out, the sooner the better. Conflicts that aren’t handled well may intensify and cause bigger problems. It takes excellent communication skills to help staff members work through escalating disagreements.
As a leader, you’re expected to demonstrate a good work ethic, a positive attitude, and loyalty to the organization. Meeting or surpassing the expectations of your team and your employer helps to build trusting relationships and can also help to prevent miscommunication and conflicts.
The expectations people have of the communication skills of good leaders don’t always line up with reality. Leaders are human, and all leaders sometimes fall short in their communication abilities and in the way they handle a variety of situations. Leaders can count on new challenges continually coming up, and when faced with a problem you’ve never faced before, you may not do everything right the first time. Consider a few ways that the communication skills of leaders may not quite meet expectations.
Leaders May Not Always Keep People Interested
While individuals in leadership roles understand they have to lead meetings, webinars, and presentations, they may not give a lot of thought to the reactions of others when communicating different types of information. Whatever you’re trying to communicate, whether, to an individual, a small group, or a large group, you’re expected to have the ability to capture and keep people’s attention. This isn’t always easy.
If it seems like people’s eyes are glazed over when you’re speaking or they look like they’re not really paying attention, consider what you might be doing that’s failing to keep people interested and engaged. Consider the way you communicate information. Speaking too softly may make it impossible to get your point across, but speaking too loudly may make it difficult for you to learn from the contributions of others. Speaking in a monotone puts everyone to sleep but talking too fast probably means at least some of your listeners are getting lost. Giving long-winded speeches and not allowing others to get a word in edgewise can quickly cause others to lose interest.
Another way that leaders sometimes fall short of expectations is by being unprepared. People want to know you have the knowledge and skills needed to effectively lead. Whenever you’re putting on a presentation or leading a meeting, planning the most important points you need to make ahead of time helps keep things flowing smoothly. Knowing what you want to say makes it more likely you’ll stay on track and not ramble or wander off on a tangent.
Things that may help to improve your ability to keep people interested is to work on using story-telling abilities. Injecting humor where appropriate can help to lighten the mood and keep people paying attention. Spend some time thinking about department meetings and other work interactions. If it seemed like people weren’t engaged in what you were saying in recent interactions, consider how you might have approached a meeting or presentation differently.
Leaders Sometimes Fail to Keep Emotions Out of Things
It’s usually expected that part of effective communication of a good leader includes always controlling your emotions. This starts with self-awareness and self-control.
While you don’t want to project an image of complete emotionlessness or act like a robot, you don’t want your emotions to get out of control either. Emotional outbursts such as showing disrespect toward a superior or showing displays of anger, annoyance, or frustration toward an employee or a customer aren’t helping you to put your best foot forward. Continually work on not being reactive to criticism or difficult people.
Make an effort to stay calm when faced with conflict or pressure. For example, if you’re mediating a dispute between team members who are in conflict and you believe that one is in the right, don’t make it obvious that you feel that way. Avoid revealing any underlying feelings that might be interpreted as favoritism.
Leaders Aren’t Always Approachable or Adaptable
Effective communication of a good leader isn’t possible if the efforts of others to communicate are shut down. Encourage open communication. Don’t be in the habit of always having your door closed or telling staff members you don’t have time to hear their concerns. It’s important to be approachable and open to communication from employees and colleagues.
Building good working relationships and trust depends on being open to conversations. Have scheduled one-on-one meetings with employees and let them know you want to know how things are going. Are they facing challenges they’re having trouble solving? Are there any problems or disagreements with coworkers? Are they feeling under-challenged or overwhelmed?
It’s critical that leaders have the ability to be adaptable. You’ll need to have the interpersonal skills needed to communicate with many different types of people. Different people have different reactions and responses, and effective leaders use different approaches in response to people of diverse backgrounds.
Leaders Aren’t Always Listening As Carefully As They Could Be
One of the most important communication skills that every leader is expected to have is the ability to pay attention and listen when others are speaking. On any given day, you may have to absorb what others have said in meetings, hear concerns that are being voiced by employees or pay attention to complaints from dissatisfied customers.
Leaders are also expected to listen when superiors or colleagues give feedback. When listening to others, ask questions and pay attention to the answer. Ask for clarification if you’re not sure you’re hearing what they intend to be saying. Pay attention to nonverbal cues as well such as tone of voice or body language.
It’s a common problem for leaders to think they’re listening when they’re actually half-listening while thinking through what they want to say when it’s their turn to speak. Leaders who do that aren’t living up to the expectations others may have of them.
Some leaders fail to listen much to others at all. If you’re not listening carefully in a variety of workplace situations, you might not be absorbing what staff members are trying to tell you or what changes may be ahead. If you find yourself doing all the talking when interacting with others, work on encouraging others to speak. If you’re dictating solutions to the challenges employees are facing, you may be failing to hear creative ideas for a different approach.
In every interaction, work on being more present and focused when others are speaking. See if you can repeat back to others what they’ve said. Give them a chance to clarify what they mean if you have misunderstood.
Being the Best Leader You Can Be
The thing many people don’t stop to think about is that people in leadership roles are human. Leaders aren’t going to get it right every time. The most important thing is to learn from both good and bad experiences and take advantage of opportunities to learn more about improving your communication and conflict management skills. There’s always room for improvement in narrowing the gap between expectations and reality.
Reach out to Peaceful Leaders Academy to learn about available training and coaching in leadership and communication skills.