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Leadership Starts with Communication Skills


The Harvard Business Review recently  released the findings of a study of how poor leaders become good leaders.  This study described a group of 71 leaders who were able to elevate their leadership effectiveness from being poor leaders to being good ones.

The study collected data over a 12-18 month period tracking what the leaders who made the biggest gains were doing.  Just about all of them made significant gains in their ability to execute nine particular leadership skills.

The most common skill that these people improved was  their communication effectiveness

1.  They improved their communication effectiveness

Weak leaders are poor communicators. Diminished communication skills lead to low self confidence. No one wants to follow a leader that lacks confidence.

So much of what a leader does is tied to good communication.  It’s no surprise that when we improve the way we communicate, we improve the way we lead.

According to the report, for many of those who improved as leaders improving communication was less about learning new skills, and more about using the skills they already had – more often.

All of us have strengths and weaknesses in the way we communicate.  This report demonstrated that when we concentrate on  working to improve the strengths we already possess will see results much sooner.

I found an interesting sentence in the article that reads  ”for many of these leaders, improvement here was less about learning new skills than about using the skills they already had more often and with more people”.

That’s just what we do in Toastmasters. We Learn by doing.  We practice our communication skills regularly with a group of people, which in turn builds confidence and helps foster our leadership skills.

Many of the  other areas that poor leaders improved upon are tied to better communications.

Here are the other 8 skills that helped these poor leaders become better.

2.  They made an effort to share their knowledge and expertise more widely

3.  They began to encourage others to do more and to be better

4.  They developed a broader perspective.

5.  They recognized that they were role models and needed to set a good example

6.  They began to champion their team’s new ideas

7.  They learned to recognize when change was needed.

8.  They improved their ability to inspire and motivate others.

9.  They began to encourage cooperation rather than competition.

Leadership skills can be improved.  It all starts with improved communication.

In the words of  former Presidential speechwriter James Humes,

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”


You can find the article at the Harvard Business Review Blog.