Communicating as a Leader

Communicating as a Leader

The Importance of Communication

One of the most distinguishing traits of a leader is the rare ability to communicate effectively. Knowing the right thing to say and how to say it can make or break your leadership tenure, your team, and your organization.

Plain English: For the purposes of this book, communication is the ability to transmit information, thoughts, and ideas so that they are satisfactorily understood by a listener or listeners.

As a leader, you want to satisfactorily communicate information and ideas; however, you also want to communicate them in such a way as to achieve a desired outcome—for example, to convince, motivate, or persuade.

Using Language Effectively

The first communication tool to master is your own command of language. Practice distilling thoughts into clear, concise, and understandable phrases. Rambling, using slang, and mumbling are not effective. Try to speak in an audible, clear voice and to speak forcefully in a consistent tone. Speaking forcefully suggests to the listeners that you have power. Mumbling has the opposite effect.

High-Impact Words

Why settle for saying “We did good this year,” when you can say “We exceeded performance expectations this year”? The phrases you use in everyday business communication can have a strong impact on the listeners.Leaders are expected to motivate and inspire; therefore, a leader’s use of words is important. Use words that give force to your speech and have an inspirational effect on your group.

To illustrate this, let’s rephrase the following statements:

  • Great job.
  • Any new ideas, John?
  • Maybe that other company just needs to watch out.
  • I’m sure we’ll figure out this sales problem soon.

The preceding statements may be factual, but they are far from being forceful or motivational. Here are the same statements, rephrased using effective language:

  • Absolutely phenomenal job.
  • Let’s get creative. John, what are your thoughts?
  • Our competition has good reason to be worried.
  • We’re on the verge of making a sales philosophy breakthrough.

The revised statements exude power and control of each situation.


Corporate cultures, and even certain industries, are breeding grounds for buzzwords, or insider terminology that is used within a particular culture. For example, offline is a buzzword recently inspired by Internet companies. “Let’s talk about this offline,” means that a certain topic should be discussed elsewhere, perhaps not in the context of a meeting, but in a more private setting. Pay close attention to the buzzwords circulating in your company or industry. Using them correctly could identify you as a player who is aware of the latest trends.

Caution : Take care not to use outdated buzzwords. Doing so could result in a loss of credibility, and will probably at least guarantee you a roll of the eyes from listeners who are bored with the term.

Using Analogies and Metaphors

Analogies and metaphors help effective communication by giving listeners a frame of reference for understanding a concept.
Analogies imply to the listener that if two situations or people agree in one respect, they are likely to agree in several others. The following are some examples of analogies:

  • You remind me of Rocky. Sure, you started at the bottom, but you’ve got ambition and you’re working your way to the top.
  • Since every American household has a TV, books are going the way of vaudeville—no one is really interested anymore.
  • Sure, your computer may have just blown up and you’ve lost the project you’ve been working on all year … but did Scarlett O’Hara give up when the Union soldiers burned down Tara?

A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares two objects not ordinarily associated with each other in order to put the first into context.

Here are some examples of metaphors:

  • His business sense is impeccable; he’s like a bloodhound that can’t be shaken off the scent of his prey.
  • We’re swimming with the sharks now; watch your back.
  • The company is being crushed by the weight of this debt. It’s time to cut our losses and regroup.

Tip : You’re a leader, not a poet. Don’t get carried away with using analogies and metaphors in your speech. You might limit yourself to using them only when a listener is having a hard time understanding a particular concept.


Leaders often use anecdotes to weave past successes into inspirational appeals to their groups. Anecdotes are particularly effective because people tend to enjoy hearing them and will remember a point more easily if it’s framed in an anecdote. Subject matter for anecdotes might include the story of an individual whose efforts saved the unit or company from ruin or the effect the company’s work has had on a particular customer’s life. The desired result of anecdotes is to inspire the listener(s) to believe that they are capable of achieving similar results. In the preceding two examples, the first lets the individual know that his or her contributions are important and can have a profound effect on the entire organization. The second example helps employees recommit to the idea that the company does provide a beneficial service to consumers and that all of the day-to-day struggles of the business are worth it.


Leaders are often called on to make speeches. Public speaking can take place in several different settings. Managers routinely address their groups as a whole and are often required to give prepared presentations to peers or superiors. You may also be required to give a speech before a large group