Why It's Important and How to Improve It

Communication is a vital part of the modern workplace. Whether written or verbal, our interactions underscore every initiative. We instinctively understand the value of professional communication, and yet, many leaders struggle to define what exactly constitutes effective communication or how to create conditions where it spreads throughout an organization.

We're here to clear up the confusion. Below, we'll provide a deep dive into the vital role of communication in leadership, exploring how it contributes to everything from productivity to innovation and even workplace satisfaction. We also will explore the most impactful communication techniques and reveal the best opportunities for improving cross-cultural communication in a global economy. 

What Is Effective Communication?

Effective communication is difficult to define, partially because what is valued by one organization or community may prove less desirable in another situation. Generally, communication can be deemed effective if it allows people to exchange ideas and information in an open and honest manner, allowing all parties to gain new insights and understand one another.

Whether it takes place via email, social media, or traditional, in-person conversations, effective communication is focused, engaging, and productive. It is inherently goal-oriented, even when this is not immediately evident to those taking part in these interactions. 

Why Is Communication Important in Leadership?

Effective leadership depends on trust. However, this is not possible without meaningful communication. It is through communication that you truly get to know team members: what drives and excites them—or what makes them feel worried, disrespected, or disengaged.

In turn, effective and transparent communication allows team members to connect with you and your vision. This is key to building mutual respect, overcoming barriers, and ultimately fostering a driven and purposeful workplace environment. 

How to Improve Your Leadership Communication Skills:

You're well aware of the central role communication plays in leadership, but improving your own communication style is another matter altogether. We've identified a few key strategies to help you get started: 

1. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses

The best leaders know where they excel but can also identify key areas for improvement. Self-awareness is a must, especially when striving to develop a skill as nuanced and subjective as communication.

Chances are good that you already have some idea of where you struggle and excel with regard to your communication style. Take some time to reflect on these strengths and weaknesses or, if you are unsure, ask your colleagues for insight.

Simply reading your correspondence (or watching videos of your presentations) can make a world of difference; shift your focus from the actual message to the manner in which it is delivered, and you may start to observe some quirks or mannerisms that prevent you from getting your point across. Along the way, consider the many nuances of communication, such as nonverbal cues and tone of voice: these often require the most attention but are also the easiest skills to neglect. 

2. Find a Mentor

Every professional at every level can benefit from mentorship. Leaders, in particular, need both inspiration and accountability. An excellent mentor could be instrumental in helping you identify your strengths and weaknesses and could provide much-needed motivation as you embark on a journey of self-improvement. Your mentorship also can provide ample opportunities to practice new communication skills in a positive and nurturing environment. 

3. Admit When You Fail and Move Forward

Communication failures are inevitable and, unfortunately, even the most distinguished speakers or writers are bound to struggle from time to time. Yet in many cases, it is not the initial failure that stands in the way of effective communication but an inability to learn from that failure and try something new.

Instead of concluding that you're a poor communicator and always will be, view this as a learning opportunity. Determine where your message fell short and how you can change your approach to get the point across more effectively in the future. 

4. Take Leadership Courses

Efforts to improve communication styles may prompt limited improvements, in part, because few of us are truly equipped to honestly assess our own progress (or lack thereof) in such a subjective area. Outside perspectives are always valuable, but obtaining honest and accurate insight from team members can prove surprisingly challenging. Your coworkers are unlikely to wish to offend you, after all. Therein lies the value of dedicated communication or leadership courses, which will expose you to expert instructors who can help you capitalize on your strengths and improve in areas of weakness. You'll also meet a variety of talented peers, professionals who share similar goals but are also eager to help each other make progress.

Communication and leadership courses also build much-needed accountability into your efforts, ensuring that you consistently practice key communication skills and reflect on your progress. What's more, you'll quickly come to look forward to these fascinating and highly engaging classes that may encourage you to draw on your own experiences in the workplace while also learning from the fascinating experiences of others. 

5. Set Goals

If you have a general goal of improving your communication techniques, you may find it difficult to make any discernible progress unless your efforts are highly organized and regimented. Improvements are more likely if you determine where you are lacking and how you can boost your communication skills. This is best achieved through setting SMART goals: clearly defined objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

When your overarching mission involves effective communication, you may discover that relevant goals are difficult to define. When in doubt, opt for action-oriented efforts that force you to change your approach. As mentioned previously, this could be as simple as setting the goal to take and perform well in a management or leadership course. Other goal-setting initiatives might include:

  • Aim to reduce filler language during presentations by a certain amount.
  • Commit to learning a set number of industry-specific terms each week.
  • Increase the response rate to email queries or surveys by a specific amount.

6. Brush Up on Your Hard Skills

Soft skills receive a great deal of attention these days, and for good reason: they play heavily into every facet of modern innovation, collaboration, and productivity. But without hard skills to underscore these capabilities, there will be little of substance to communicate. Relevant hard skills will depend on your preferred sector or niche but could include areas as diverse as coding and data analytics, accounting, or even social media marketing. 

What Are Examples of Good Leadership Skills?

Communication is just one of many core competencies crucial to success in modern leadership. Often referred to as "soft skills," these valuable qualities allow leaders to motivate and engage with team members from a variety of backgrounds, all while helping to align the goals and intentions of individuals with overarching organizational objectives.

Other critical skills that play into effective leadership include: 

Strategic Thinking

Rational and intentional, strategic thinking involves a thorough analysis of the myriad variables that might influence any given decision and its eventual outcomes. This mindset often strives to challenge conventional ways of thinking, replacing these with a more creative, nuanced, and purpose-driven approach. 

Delegating Tasks

Leaders can only accomplish so much on their own. They need to understand which team members are best suited to each task—and delegate them accordingly. There is no room for micromanaging in modern leadership; instead, leaders should equip team members with the skills and resources they need before granting them the autonomy to handle important tasks as they see fit.

This is where effective communication comes into play: leaders need to demonstrate through their words and actions that they trust team members to make the best decisions based on the situation at hand. 

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills involve any qualities you rely on when interacting with other people. Also known as social skills or people skills, these can be difficult to define—but it's always obvious when they are present, as the person equipped with these skills can navigate a variety of social situations with ease. Such traits are not as innate as you might assume, but instead can be developed over time through conscious effort or focused training. 

Leadership and Communication

Leadership and communication are inextricably linked. Effective leadership is not possible unless you are able to convey important information in a way that team members find compelling. Master the in-demand skill of transparent communication, and you will have the makings of a truly impactful leader. 

Learn More, Today

Are you ready to boost your communication and leadership skills? This is a core area of focus at the University of Minnesota College of Continuing and Professional Studies. Explore our Communications, Supervision, and Leadership Essentials certificates today!