Leadership Effectiveness: Communications Currency

Leadership Effectiveness: Communications CurrencyLeaders often talk about communication style, but do we really know what it means? Type “communication style” into your favorite browser and the search results will contain many articles, references, and websites on the topic. There are a number of 2×2 matrices that (supposedly) explain the different types of communication styles. Some even provide labels of “your type” or “others’ type” for ease of understanding. Sometimes those 2x2s can explode from four quadrants to sixteen sections.

There are different communication style constructs. One construct, for example, uses descriptors of aggressive, passive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. A second one uses intuitive, analytical, functional, and personal style descriptors. A third uses the director, expresser, thinker, and harmonizer types. See references in Further reading.

This is all very interesting but, in the end, your leadership effectiveness and credibility—the currency you have as a leader to have followers, influence, and achieve successful outcomes—is, to a great extent, a function of your ability to communicate so that other people hear you and that you hear them. A critical element of this leadership currency is that your actions inform others that you have heard them and that they feel heard.

To delve into the communications currency question, first ask yourself if you are aware of the impact your communication style has on your team or other stakeholders. Do you know your style? Do you shoot from the hip, rattling things off, and running to your next meeting? Or maybe you are an explorer. Do you engage everyone but, in your absence, no one has a clue what to do? Are you emotionally aware of how your tone either creates fear or inspires? Paying attention to the possible unintended impact of your words on others is key.

Outstanding leaders develop a sophisticated communication style that enables them to effectively reach all of their stakeholders. They do not use the same communication style all the time. What might be perfect for delivering quarterly results to the board would likely not work with a grieving employee, or a workforce dealing with a large-scale crisis. Great leaders understand that communication style is situational.

No matter how you define the matrix of communications styles, certain things are important in building your communications currency:

  1. Seek to understand—listen to understand.
  2. Check to see that you are understood.
  3. Exercise your Emotional Intelligence to build your awareness of your audience—their moods, needs, “where they are” today.
  4. Be responsive to others.
  5. Tell the truth, don’t obfuscate.
  6. Know when to count to ten.
  7. And remember:
    • Listening is being able to be changed by the other person. Alan Alda
    • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. Peter Drucker
    • Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. Stephen R. Covey

What is your communication style? Are you a good listener? Do you understand—and speak to—your audience’s needs?

Further reading

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