Learn the communication strategies used by great leaders

John Sherman

Communication is an essential part of leadership. Fail to communicate effectively and mayhem could ensue or, at least, people can lack confidence that they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. It is important to let people know when they are on the right track, as well as when something isn’t going as you want it to, because only then can people continue with confidence or redress the issue so that tasks are completed effectively.


It may sound simple, but many leaders lack the skills needed to truly get the workforce behind them and working effectively and efficiently. Below are some of the skills that make up a truly great leader.

Always listening

Communication works both ways and in order for you to be able to say the right things, you first need to know the right things. Your workforce is on the frontlines of business every day completing tasks, overcoming issues and dealing with other people. If there is something that you need to know in order for you to be able to continue to lead effectively, it is likely that that information will come from the people that are closest to the action.

Hold meetings regularly, whether one on one or in teams, so that you can get feedback from your team to help you keep up with what is happening. Listen intently to the feedback you receive, negative as well as positive, so you can get a full picture of what is happening and what you need to do going forward.

Don’t dismiss people straight away as being pessimistic. Even though they may begin with something that you don’t want to hear, they could also be about to offer you a solution to the problem. It could be that the person that starts to speak with what may sound like a problem for you could be about to make your life a lot easier.

Showing empathy

According to psychology today, empathy is a key component of a successful leader. Every task has its own set of challenges, and the people carrying out these tasks will have to overcome these challenges on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter if the challenge is something as ‘simple’ as finding items on a shelf, or as complex as creating advanced accounting spreadsheets, they are still tasks with obstacles that are very real to the person undertaking them. Sharing that you understand the challenges people face and that you share their feelings on them will help them to connect with you and have confidence that they can get behind you.
Remember also that in addition to tasks at work, people also have lives to lead outside of work and life does have a habit of making things difficult for us at times. Emergencies at home do need to be taken care of, heavy traffic is beyond our control, and so on. If somebody is repeatedly late or not performing then there might be an issue with that person, but try to remember that life does occasionally throw something at us that we simply must deal with.

A great leader will also put their ego aside and try their best to work on the same level as their workforce. Let them know that you too once did a similar job and that you are willing to get hands on yourself to help out if you need to. Doing so can also act as inspiration as it lets your workforce know that someday, they too could be in your position if they put their mind to it.

Speaking clearly

Leadership isn't about dazzling others with your intellect and knowledge. Speak to people as though you are competing in some kind of competition to see who knows the most and there's a good chance that people will just switch off and lose interest in what you are saying, and in you.

A good leader will keep everything simple to help make sure that everybody can understand what is being said. Try to use lingo and technical terms sparingly so you can be sure that your message gets to as many people as possible.

Having an open mind

A varied workforce will be host to a plethora of ideas and opinions, and some are likely to be quite unexpected. Even if something doesn’t sound at first as though it will work, keep an open mind and consider it thoroughly because ‘different’ does not necessarily mean ‘wrong’. New ideas are what drives innovation, and great leaders embrace innovation whenever possible

Knowing your business inside out

People look to leaders for advice and solutions and this means knowing the job at hand in detail. When it is clear that you know what you are talking about then it is easier for others to trust that you have the correct solution. Regular meetings with your workforce will help you to understand practices and procedures inside out, while occasionally getting hands on can also help you to understand exactly what you are talking about.

If there is something that you are unsure of then don’t pretend you do and give advice anyway. If necessary, delegate some tasks to others in the short-term at least, with a view to learning the task yourself so you can deal with it yourself directly in the future.
Being True to Your Word.

Gaining the trust of your workforce is essential if you are going to be a great leader, so it is important that you are seen to be acting in accordance with what you say. Act in a manner that is contradictory to what you are saying and your workforce will quickly begin to lose confidence in you, making it so much harder for you to lead them.

It is OK to change your mind from time to time provided that you keep people updated, and that they know that the change is for genuine reasons. If you have made certain assurances to some people then you should do your best to honour those assurances the best you can even though circumstances have changed.

Leading is not just about telling other people what to do, that's the easy part. A great leader will be able to not only tell people what needs to be done but do so in a way that they are happy and confident in what they are doing. Under a great leader, a workforce will be not only happy in their role but also inspired to push on, while having the confidence to speak out where necessary. If you share the attributes stated above, you too may be a truly great leader.


Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
Latest stories and insights