Feb 06, 2023

Why is communication important in leadership?

George Bernard Shaw once said, “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” It’s easy to blame others for not listening but learning the art of communication is a wiser path. And why is communication important in leadership? In short, it’s the foundation for success.

To inspire and mobilize

What happens when you tell people what to do? Do they diligently follow or do they do things their way? What about the signals you receive when you talk to others? Do they seem engaged, are they saying encouraging things and is there a positive, shared energy between both of you? 

All of the above questions are ways to determine your communication impact. Our minds are designed to want to be right so for many, it’s easier to tell what to do. If you think about how that works for you, you’ll know that forcing opinions on others is not generally the best influencing style. 

If you want to engage and influence others such that they go the extra mile, you have to move beyond the concept of communication as a means to impart a message towards communication as a mutual exchange of energy and thoughts. That’s how great leaders connect on a deep level to then relate to others with positive influence.

Successful leaders don’t just connect, they nurture their relationships. They know that the answer to the question “why is communication important in leadership” is that it allows you to cultivate stronger networks. With those networks, they can build better teams and get a wider range of solutions both for the business and their careers. 

In our previous blog on manager coaching skills, we talked about the difference between transactional and transformational communication. In transactional communication, leaders can come across as judgmental which tends to push people away. On the flip side, in a deep and meaningful dialogue where both parties feel equal and valued, the relationship will take them to higher heights in terms of what they can achieve together. 

What does effective communication look like for a good leader?

Another important aspect of wise communication is that it impacts the very core of your company culture. Imagine leaders and employees walking around imposing their views in one scenario. Contrast this with the scenario where everyone is curious about each other’s inputs and viewpoints. 

In the former, you create defensive walls in people and an “us against them” culture. In the latter, you provide safety such that people open up and feel motivated to co-create solutions for shared success.

Communication is important in leadership because it enables the following:

  • It builds trust by connecting with people through common ground and by making them feel valued 
  • It engenders excitement that taps into others’ intrinsic motivation and connects them to a higher purpose that goes beyond just aiming for the bottom line 
  • It drives focus with clarity and by paying attention so that important information is shared along with relevant thoughts and viewpoints to generate solutions

Ensure crucial conversations provide optimal outcomes

Good leadership goes above just building rapport because influential leaders know that when they connect with others, they can utilize their skills more effectively. With open, transparent and connective communication, you are surrounded by a supportive environment where everyone is free of judgment to work to the best of their ability. 

In essence, communication is important in leadership and lies in how you connect with people. Leaders are nothing without those around them to follow their vision. And effective leaders use the art of language to mobilize others to that vision. 

How do good communicators make this happen, especially for crucial conversations with high stakes? They make sure that they find rapport and common ground so that at the end of the conversation, they don’t reach a compromise but instead, something even better than neither party had thought of before. Often emotions are high during those crucial conversations such as a promotion or difficult feedback so it’s doubly important to connect as humans rather than follow a transactional process. 

By connecting as humans, the dynamics are less strained and provide a safer space where people can open up and problem-solve in a more creative way. Together, you might even surprise yourself with what breakthrough solutions you can discover. 

In summary, communication is important in leadership to manage crucial conversations that can impact careers and business without anyone becoming the victim or the aggressor. 

Open and honest dialogue carves out possibilities you would never have imagined.

How can you develop breakthrough leadership communication skills?

As the authors of the book Crucial Conversations state, if you genuinely want to create a breakthrough dialogue, you need to work on yourself first. It all starts with managing your emotions so that your ego does not blind you. 

For example, pause before any conversation and ask yourself what you want. Is it an argument where both stick to their opinions or would you prefer a discovery exchange where you’re curious about each other’s realities? 
Remember the question “why is communication important in leadership” as you review these items. The ultimate aim is to connect with others and not just have a one-way exchange.

Let go of the ego

  • Work with a coach. Discover shared meaning involves understanding how your desires and emotions impact safety in a dialogue. A leadership coach can allow you to self-reflect on your impact on others and develop your self-esteem so that you have nothing to prove. 
  • Be present. If you are caught up in your inner world and fears, then you cannot be fully engaged in the conversation. To be present means being less biased and more open to understanding the other person’s story. A great exercise to set the right intention is the 3Ps from Dr. Kristin Neff. Pause, be Present, and Proceed mindfully. All good listeners let go of their judgment this way and open their hearts before every conversation.
  • Listen. Active listening means not being distracted by things going on around you or even by what’s going on inside your mind. In the Crucial Conversations book, they talk about asking questions, paraphrasing and summarizing as key techniques. They also talk about building on information when others miss out on key points and comparing when you have different views. Don’t argue but compare those views to find similarities and consider how the differences could be integrated.


  • Train your mind to focus.  First, remove all distractions. Secondly, start training your focus in small incremental periods. Set the intention, take notes where possible, and ask questions to keep yourself in the conversation.
  • Connect with your values and goals. Sometimes you have to work out how you’re going to decide something when you are in a crucial conversation. Great communicators always bring it back to values and goals. A good starting point is to leverage the organizational goals but if you can also bring in each other’s values you will again connect at a deeper level.

  • Get comfortable with silence. If you’re comfortable communicating, you know all about silence. Again, work with a coach to build the self-esteem you need to allow for silence. It’s also a great way to explore the question “why is communication important in leadership”. Essentially, silence gives people the space to reflect and to be themselves.


  • Peer-to-peer listening exercises. One of the best exercises you can do with your team members is to work in threes. One person speaks about anything they want, another listens and the third observes body language alongside verbal cues. You then reflect on the differences between listening and speaking and what it means to be fully engaged.
  • Regulate emotions. Emotions impact our ability to engage with others. Moreover, effective leadership is about managing those emotions and having the courage to be fully authentic in crucial conversations. Another key element is also being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see, hear and feel the person and the context as this paper on empathy and transformational leadership describes. Otherwise, how can you hope to open up new ways of thinking? 

Communicate to connect for greater success

Why is communication important in leadership and why should you care? If you want to move forwards in your career, you have no choice but to learn the art of language. It’s the only way to build the connections you need to influence, mobilize and create the environment for everyone to operate at their best. 

Making the change isn’t necessarily easy because it involves knowing yourself deeply and letting go of the ego. Work with a leadership or language coach but also work with your colleagues. Get help from those around you because chances are, everyone is struggling with communication. The more you support each other, the more likely you’ll move the needle whilst also deepening your bonds in the process. 

As leadership author John C. Maxwell explains,”to be successful you must work with others. To do that at your absolute best, you must learn to connect.”


Coaching, Communication, Company Culture, L&D, Leadership, People, Skills-Based Coaching

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