Have you ever left a job because of a bad manager? If so, you’re not alone. A poor experience with managers has caused nearly half of all employees to quit their job.
It’s been said (likely by one of the 50% above) that employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. Whether true or not, it’s undeniable that leaders have a profound influence on employees. Their actions, behaviors, and attitudes have the power to drive employees to great success – or to drive them out the door.
As Donald McGannon, renowned Chairman of Westinghouse Broadcasting, said, ‘Leadership is an action, not a position.”
As organizations emerge from the shadow of COVID and position themselves for the future, good leadership is more essential than ever. This is the time for leaders to master leadership communications – and this article shows you how to do it.
Plus download the guide for all the insights and our framework for the new model of leadership.
What is Leadership Communication?
Leadership communication is the top-down delivery of information from employers to employees, with the aim of building knowledge and improving engagement.
Leaders can be at any level of an organization, from owners and C-suite executives to department heads and line managers. While employees will have the most contact with the levels of leadership immediately above them, all levels are able to influence employee engagement and job satisfaction.
Communication objectives differ at each level of leadership. They range from strategic and organizational-wide at the highest levels, to tactical and role-specific at lower levels.
Executives will communicate with staff about company direction, business performance, and change programs. Line managers will communicate directly with employees in their team about personal performance and how proposed changes may affect them.
Why is Leadership Communication Important?
Leadership communication is essential for organizations to progress strategic priorities, maintain a positive working environment and achieve organizational goals.
The importance of communication in leadership can’t be overstated. When leaders connect their people to purpose, accomplishment, and one another, employees are 845% more likely to be highly engaged and 56% less likely to burn out.
When low employee engagement costs companies an average of $3 million every year, the importance of good leadership is clear.
Improving leadership communications means investing in both the skill of communicating and the channels used to manage it. A good leader today needs a different skillset than in the past. Traditional ‘soft skills’ are now essential skills.
Similarly, new modes of leadership demand new ways of messaging. Internal Communication Managers play a crucial role in connecting employees with leaders. This is particularly important if your organization is operating a hybrid working model.
10 Essential Leadership Communication Skills
Effective leaders today need both sound business nous and excellent interpersonal skills. The ability to communicate well underlies both of these.
We spoke to several top business leaders for their thoughts on what makes a great leader. These are the 10 key skills all agreed are the definition of a good leader in 2022.
The visibility of leaders is an important ingredient in building trust. Employees value leaders that regularly face up and speak up. Face up to staff and speak up about pressing issues. Doing this increases transparency conveys sincerity and strengthens employee connection.
Employees are savvy enough to see through any attempt by leaders to ‘spin the message’. Doing this undermines trust in the message, which can be particularly dangerous when staff can share opinions with peers so readily through social channels.
Empathic leadership is about seeing staff as human beings and understanding how they feel. Empathy from leaders directly improves employee experience (EX), as revealed in SnapComms EX research.
Great leaders are visionary. They radiate positivity, inspiring staff with a compelling vision of the future and impelling them to come along for the ride. This strengthens employees’ connection to company purpose, improving productivity and reducing turnover.
Employees look to leaders as the source of truth. Leadership communications must provide truthful, unbiased, and trustworthy information. But it must be done carefully and deliberately. Communicating badly is worse than not communicating at all.
Every level of leadership must exhibit the same high standards. Employees experiencing a poor relationship with one manager will see higher-level managers as complicit. A failure at any level is a failure at every level.
7. Active listening
Because the needs of employees are so unique, leaders must become skilled in active listening. This means reading body language, and paying attention to the content, intent, and feeling of staff, whether conveyed online or face-to-face.
The ability to communicate complex topics in simple ways is important to inform and reassure staff. Leaders must be comfortable translating news and events at the macro level into relatable information on how it matters to the organization and its staff.
In times of change, leaders need to be flexible in their approach. Adopting different strategies can provide a significant competitive advantage. Sticking rigidly to what’s been done in the past can result in stagnation and being left behind.
The best leaders are those who are open to doing things better. It’s more than just listening to feedback, it’s acting upon it and using it to guide decision-making. Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas – wise leaders will embrace them from any source.
Examples of Effective Leadership
As Chairman and CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella leads one of the largest and most influential companies on the planet. A philanthropist and entrepreneur, his achievements have been recognized by Time magazine and others.
With 22 years at Microsoft under his belt, and a dedicated family man in his personal life, perhaps Satya's biggest strength is his people skills. Of being a leader, he said, “The key to everything is empathy, because nothing is more fruitful than walking in the shoes of others."
Jessica Deckinger, Chief Communications Officer at Everbridge, has lead teams in marketing, finance and operations for more than 20 years. She believes, “Leadership needs to be listening to their teams, communicating openly and transparently, and creating positive, deliberate culture.”
David Grossman heads up a Chicago-based strategic leadership development consultancy, and is a regular advisor to Fortune 500 leaders. His philosophy for leadership is to "be authentic."
He explains, "For a number of years, I wasn’t being true to who I really was. It also made me a less effective leader. I’ve since embraced what I call 'respectful authenticity' in leadership, which is all about knowing yourself, being your best self, and having quiet courage in your relationships with others."
Download Leadership Communications Guide
The ability for leaders to effectively communicate with and connect to employees is essential. It requires a new model of leadership for our new normal of work.
Download your free guide to delivering exceptional leadership – and connecting leaders with employees through effective communication.