Effective Communication Skills For Leaders


Effective communication is an essential skill for business leaders. It enables leaders to build trust, develop relationships, motivate teams, navigate through crisis and organizational change, and align their team around a shared vision.

Communication missteps can be costly. According to a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, communication barriers have caused delay or failure to complete projects (44%), low morale (31%), missed performance goals (25%), and even lost sales (18%)—some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another study found that inadequate communication in the workplace can cost large companies an average of $64.2 million per year, while smaller organizations are at risk of losing $420,000 annually.


  1. Prepare in advance. Know what you want to say and how you want to say it. If you are delivering a presentation, practice it ahead of time. Saying it out loud can help you to discover any potential stumbling blocks and pinpoint components that might be unclear. If it’s in written form, review it carefully and ask yourself what questions might arise from the communication. Be sure your final communication is clear, concise, and tailored to your audience.
  2. Pay attention to your emotions. If you are feeling angry or frustrated, consider taking some time to cool off before you communicate so you don’t say something you might regret later. If you are feeling rushed or pressured, ask yourself if the communication can be delayed until you have more time to think through what you want to say and how you want to say it.
  3. Be empathetic. Put yourself in the shoes of the person with whom you are communicating and try to understand their feelings. Show interest in, and respect for, your colleagues. Building trust and emotional connections are important for effective leadership. Foster an environment of psychological safety so people feel comfortable speaking up and valued for their contributions. More tips for how to lead with empathy here.
  4. Be mindful of tone and non-verbal communication. Pay attention to your body language, your facial expressions, and your tone of voice when you communicate. Make eye contact. Keep your body language open. Be sure to watch your tone in written communications as well. Read it aloud to ensure you haven’t overlooked a tone of voice that might not reflect your intent. When possible, ask a trusted colleague to review important communications. Similarly, pay attention to the body language and tone of the person with whom you are communicating. If you notice frustration or anger, what can you do to diffuse? If you notice a lack of eye contact and crossed arms, what can you do to encourage them to open up?
  5. Be a good listener. Listening is key to communicating effectively. As Stephen Covey put it, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” The foundation of good listening is ensuring you are being receptive and respectful. Here are some tips for listening well:
    • Establish eye contact
    • Clear your mind and truly focus
    • Turn off your phone (or put it away) and turn away from monitors
    • Defer judgment
    • React in the moment
    • Keep an open mind
    • Don’t interrupt
    • Stay curious
  6. Be authentic and transparent. Be yourself. Be honest and sincere. Say what you mean. Be true to your word and keep your promises. Authenticity and transparency are crucial to effective communication.
  7. Be motivational. Use your communications to encourage, inspire and motivate your team. Show them your positivity, energy, and enthusiasm. It tends to have a ripple effect throughout your team and your organization. When challenges arise, your ability to keep spirits up can make a difference, not only for the individuals on your team, but for your organization overall.
  8. Be consistent. Be sure your communications with your team are frequent and consistent. Ensure you are making time for 1:1 sessions, team meetings, and weekly updates. Whatever cadence makes most sense for your team, be sure to be consistent.
  9. Encourage open communication. Foster an environment of open communication. Encourage your team, especially those with direct reports, to follow these same guidelines of communication so that all layers of your organization have a consistent level of communication. Consider developing a communication strategy for your organization. Open, honest communication fosters a culture of inclusivity, solidarity, and loyalty.

If you need guidance on developing a communication strategy for your organization, or improving the communication skills of your leadership team, Catapult can help. Contact us today.


Forbes: 10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

Harvard Business School: 8 Essential Leadership Communication Skills

Center for Creative Leadership: Why Communication Is So Important for Leaders

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