As a college student, I was enrolled in a leadership training program as a requirement of one of my scholarships. Throughout the 4-year program, a strong emphasis was placed on communication and how to effectively communicate with others. Now having been in the workforce for 13 years, I've observed just how important communication is, and how it separates good leaders from effective leaders.

Everyone communicates differently. To be an effective leader, it is important to understand not only your communication style but the styles of others around you. Below are a few tips/reminders to keep in mind when communicating as a leader. While some of these may seem like no-brainers, you'd be surprised at how easily these can be overlooked.

Communication tips for leaders

1.) Rethink your thought.
Communication begins with a thought from the communicator. Before you open your mouth to speak, take a moment to think about what it is you are trying to convey. Organize your idea so that it is specific, concise and direct. This will help you avoid appearing vague or opening yourself up to tangents once you begin your dialogue.

2.) Know your style.
We all communicate in a different way. As a leader, you should be aware of what your style is, including your strengths and weaknesses. As you begin to encode your message consider things like:

  • Does your voice resonate?
  • Are you easily distracted?
  • Do you stutter?
  • Are you making eye contact?
  • Do you have a perceived tone in your voice?

These are just a few examples to keep in mind when you begin your communication. Focus on highlighting your strengths and developing your weaknesses.

3.) Be willing to adapt.
The decoders or receivers of your message are all going to interpret things differently. Whether, it's a small team, large group, or a one-on-one conversation, an effective communicator knows to adapt their style to their audience. There is no one size fits all style of communication for every audience. For example, if you have a co-worker who is shy and soft spoken, it may not be the best idea to come in with a booming voice and stern tone.

4.) Watch the nonverbals.
When delivering a message, your audience is doing more that listening to what your say. They are also looking at your nonverbals to gain more clues for decoding your information. Things as simple as having a perceived tone, folding your arms across your chest, or avoiding eye contact can impact how your message is received. Being aware of your nonverbals will help enhance how your message is perceived.

5.) Ask for confirmation.
Too often as leaders, we give instructions and directives assuming that the receiver has understood our message. Double check that your communication is decoded correctly. Ask your audience to explain what it is that you've communicated to them. If they haven't understood you, then reiterating your message again in the same way is going to have little to no effect. Now is the time to adapt your style to better resonate with the receiver.

6.) Get feedback.
The best way to find out how effective your communication skills as a leader are is to ask for feedback from your audience. Since they are the ones decoding your message, they contain insight you may lack. Be receptive, humble and incorporate the recommendations into your style. After all, every leader has room for improvement.

How you communicate reflects how you are perceived as a leader. If you do nothing else keep this golden rule in mind: "Speak to others as you would want them to speak to you."