April 2015
13 Communication Practices of Exceptional Leaders
By Stephanie Reyes

Great leaders are great communicators. They share their vision in a way that inspires others and projects a contagious enthusiasm. But this ability doesn't always come naturally. We've all experienced the pep talk that falls flat: the gung ho "take one for the team" speech that triggers sarcasm instead of motivation.

So how do some people stimulate belief, loyalty, and a commitment that defies logic, while others are dismissed and disrespected? With deliberate intent and lots of practice.

Exceptional leaders connect and communicate at a level that few others achieve by consistently following these 13 communication habits.

Great leaders strive to:

  1. Be personable: They care about their followers and are willing to show it. They get to know their people and connect with them on a personal level. When tensions are high, they take the time to socialize or share some humor and let people de-stress before getting down to business.
  2. Gain trust: Keeping promises, telling the truth, and following through are all hallmarks of great leaders. People will forgive many failings if they trust, and nothing if they don't.
  3. Tell it like it is: Sugar-coating bad news, covering up mistakes, or understating risks to keep people onside tends to backfire. Leaders give people the straight goods when things go off track and then quickly refocus on moving forward.
  4. Avoid ambiguity: Clarity is essential for vision. It's hard to hit a fuzzy target or believe in a confusing message. Leaders are specific, concise, and, above all, clear in communicating their objectives and the principles they embrace.
  5. Be open-minded: While their vision is clear and unwavering, great leaders know there are multiple routes to any destination and they remain receptive to the input of their teams when mapping the way.
  6. Listen: When followers feel heard, they stay committed to the vision. Effective leaders commit to being fully present when conversing with their teams. They know people will only follow a leader who reflects their priorities and speaks for them and only a leader who listens can do that.
  7. Stay calm: When tempers fray and plans blow up, the best leaders remain calm. Resolute in the face of obstacles and unflappable regardless of external pressures, they lead with a cool composure that inspires confidence.
  8. Empathize: Staying calm when things go wrong doesn't mean ignoring the impact that circumstances may have on others. Exceptional leaders are attuned to how their people feel and respond accordingly. They weave their people's emotions, concerns, and perspective into their words. They communicate from the heart and are willing to acknowledge vulnerability rather than protecting their egos at all costs.
  9. Set the standard: From the way they dress to the language they use, and how they greet and treat others; in every aspect of their behavior, leaders know they are setting the standard for everyone on their team and across the organization. Leaders know that behavior and presence continue to communicate even when voices are silent, and they make sure to set an example of excellence.
  10. Practice perception: Whether we call it a heightened sense of awareness, intuition, emotional intelligence, or just great radar, the best leaders are adept at reading between the lines and hearing what's going on behind the words. When this skill is well-honed, it can make leaders seem prescient as they anticipate and respond to challenges before they become apparent to others.
  11. Be a thought leader: People expect leaders to be a source of knowledge and information and to help them grow. Bringing new information to their teams and challenging them with thought-provoking questions helps leaders foster the conceptual thinking and creativity they need to stay ahead of the curve.
  12. Appreciate: It may seem old-fashioned, but making a habit of saying "please" and "thank you," and publicly recognizing the input of team members, does wonders for a leader's credibility and reinforces trust. Exceptional leaders seize every opportunity to appreciate.
  13. Be congruent: Leaders are always being watched by their followers, by competitors, and by the broader marketplace. When their words and actions don't match, disillusionment soon follows. Great leaders make principle-based decisions and consciously embody their values in everything they do.


When people work with someone who exemplifies these practices every day, they instinctively recognize a strong leader and they step up and follow. The good news for aspiring leaders? These 13 behaviors are available for anyone to embrace, apply, embody, and practice.

Stephanie Reyes writes for TribeHR, a NetSuite company, the first truly social human resources management software. Its easy-to-use tools are used by businesses worldwide, allowing companies to focus more on what they do best and less on things that get in the way. For more information, visit www.tribehr.com.



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