Communication in Leadership


Communication in Leadership

CEO meeting with team of business associates

CEO meeting with team of business associates

What is Communication?

Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another.

Communication theory states that communication involves a sender and a receiver (or receivers) conveying information through a communication channel.

Through Communication, a leader informs, persuades, guides, and assures, as well as inspires.

Verbally and nonverbally, the way in which you communicate – humbly, passionately, confidently – has more impact than the words you choose. (Pele lako olabo)

Communication Channels

 Is the term given to the way in which we communicate. There are multiple communication channels available to us today, for example

  • face-to-face conversations,
  • telephone calls,
  • text messages,
  • email,
  • the Internet (including social media such as Facebook and Twitter),
  • radio and
  • TV,
  • written letters,
  • reports
  • press briefing etc.

Think about it … how do the best leaders (Martin Luther, Obama etc) motivate and inspire their people? Through clear communication.

And, how do market leaders sell their products and services? With compelling ads and marketing campaigns — by clear communication—Extravite, bambalala bambalala.

Not communicating is communication

  • We may, at times, try not to communicate; but not communicating is not an option.  In fact the harder we try not to communicate, the more we do.

By not communicating we are communicating something:

  • It is either we are shy,
  • perhaps that we are angry or sulking,
  • perhaps that we are too busy.
  • When you ignore somebody you are communicating with them, we may not tell them we are ignoring them but through non-verbal communication we make that apparent.

Categories of communication

  • Spoken or Verbal Communication: face-to-face, telephone, radio or television and other media.
  • Non-Verbal Communication: body language, gestures, how we dress or act – even our ascent.
  • Written Communication: letters, e-mails, books, magazines, the Internet or via other media.
  • Visualizations: graphs and charts, maps, logos and other visualizations can communicate

Note more than one may occur at any time.

Verbal communication

Verbal Communication Skills

Opening Communication

At a first meeting,

  • formalities and
  • appropriate greetings are usually expected:

such formalities could include

  • A handshake,
  • Give introduction to yourself,
  • Eye contact and
  • discussion around a neutral subject such as the weather, sports, football or your journey may be useful.
  • A friendly disposition
  • A smiling face is much more likely to encourage communication than a blank face, inattention or disinterested reception.

Closing Communication

The way a communication is closed or ended will, at least in part, determine the way a conversation is remembered.

A range of subtle, or sometimes not so subtle, signals are used to end an interaction.

For example,

  • some people may avoid eye contact,
  • stand up,
  • turn their body away
  • use behaviours such as looking at a watch
  • closing notepads or books.

All of these non-verbal actions indicate to the other person that the initiator wishes to end the communication.

The art of verbal Communication

  1. Effective speaking – effective speaking concerns with being able to speak in a public context with confidence and clarity
  • Your voice can reveal as much about your person as your appearance.
  • The sound of a voice and the content of speech can provide clues to an individual’s emotional state
  • A dialect can indicate their geographic roots.
  • For instance, if self-esteem is low, it may be reflected by hesitancy in the voice,
  • A shy person may have a quiet voice,
  • Someone who is confident in themselves will be more likely to have command of their voice and clarity of speech

i.        Accent; – pronunciation, intonation

  • Tribal/ethnic accents are confirmatory; they are part of individual personality.
  • Accents can add a dimension and distinctiveness to voice and emphasise individuality.
  • It is important to get used to the sound of your own voice. Local/foreign, Ekiti/Igbo, Uncultured or refined

ii.     Vocal Production—A leader needs to understand these three core elements of vocal production to become an effective speaker:

  • Volume  –  to be heard.
  • Clarity  –  to be understood.
  • Variety  –  to add interest.  Vocal variety can be achieved by variations in:


  • Pace:  This is the speed at which you talk.  If speech is too fast then the listeners will not have time to assimilate what is being said.  Nevertheless, it is a good idea to vary the pace – quickening up at times and then slowing down – this will help to maintain interest.
  • Volume:  By raising or lowering volume occasionally, you can create emphasis.
  • Pause:  Pauses mean silence for a few seconds. Pauses are powerful.
  • They can be to highlight the previous statement or
  • to gain attention before an important message.

B.     Effective Conversational Skills

Conversation is simply talking to someone else, usually informally

You must know how to

i.        Use Signals

When a conversation is flowing well, it moves naturally from one person to the other.

However, if one or both are finding it more of a struggle to ‘chat’, you may find it helpful to use ‘signals’ to show the other person that it is their turn to talk.

The most common type of signal is Questions.

  • Closed questions —–invite a yes/no answer.

In conversation, they might include “Don’t you agree?”, and “Are you enjoying the work?” They are not really inviting the other person to do more than nod and agree, rather than to share the conversation.

  • Open questions—– invite more information.

They open up the conversation to the other person, and invite them to participate. For this reason, in conversation, they are often called ‘invitations’. Open questions often start ‘How…?’ or ‘Why….?’

ii.     That conversation is a Two-Way Street

The first and most important rule of conversation is that it is not all about you, but it’s not all about the other person either.

Try to achieve a balance between talking and listening in any conversation.

To respond genuinely to what someone has just said means that you have to listen.

  • Listening

Listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communication skills.

Active listening

  • means fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker.
  • Active listening involves listening with all senses.
  • It is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening – otherwise the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.

Signs of listening

  • Verbal—- responding verbally to what the speaker is saying—e.g
    • questioning—-open or closed
  • Non-verbal signs of listening.

Non-Verbal Signs Active Listening

People who are listening are more likely to display at least some of these signs.

i.           Smile

Small smiles can be used to show that the listener is paying attention to what is being said or as a way of agreeing or being happy about the messages being received.  Combined with nods of the head, smiles can be powerful in affirming that messages are being listened to and understood.

ii.     Eye Contact

It is normal and usually encouraging for the listener to look at the speaker. Eye contact can however be intimidating, especially for more shy speakers – gauge how much eye contact is appropriate for any given situation.  Combine eye contact with smiles and other non-verbal messages to encourage the speaker.

iii.   Posture

Posture can tell a lot about the sender and receiver in interpersonal interactions.  The attentive listener tends to lean slightly forward or sideways whilst sitting.  Other signs of active listening may include a slight slant of the head or resting the head on one hand.

iv.    Mirroring

Automatic reflection/mirroring of any facial expressions used by the speaker can be a sign of attentive listening.  These reflective expressions can help to show sympathy and empathy in more emotional situations.  Attempting to consciously mimic facial expressions (i.e. not automatic reflection of expressions) can be a sign of inattention.

v.      Distraction

The active listener will not be distracted and therefore will refrain from fidgeting, looking at a clock or watch, doodling, playing with their hair or picking their fingernails.

Non-Verbal Communication

Are messages, whether intentional or not, which are expressed through non-verbal behaviours.

Some estimates suggest that speech only makes up about 20 to 30% of communication.

Types of Non-Verbal Communication

The types of interpersonal communication that are not expressed verbally (with speech) are called non-verbal communications.

They include:

  1. Body Movements (Kinesics), for example, hand gestures or nodding or shaking the head;

There are several different categories of body movement, these include:


Gestures that serve the same function as a word are called emblems.

For example, the signals that mean ‘OK’, ‘Come here!’, or the hand movement used when hitch-hiking. However, be aware that whilst some emblems are internationally recognized, others may need to be interpreted in their cultural context.


Gestures which accompany words to illustrate a verbal message are known as illustrators.

For example, the common circular hand movement which accompanies the phrase ‘over and over again’, or nodding the head in a particular direction when saying ‘over there’.


Gestures used to give feedback when conversing are called regulators.

Examples of ‘regulators’ include head nods, short sounds such as ‘uh-huh’, ‘mm-mm’, and expressions of interest or boredom. Regulators allow the other person to adapt his or her speech to reflect the level of interest or agreement. Without receiving feedback, many people find it difficult to maintain a conversation. Again, however, they may vary in different cultural contexts.


Adaptors are non-verbal behaviours which either satisfy

  • Some physical need. actions such as scratching or adjusting uncomfortable glasses, adjusting trousers
  • a psychological need such as biting fingernails when nervous.

ii.       Posture

Posture is how you stand or sit, whether your arms are crossed, and so on;

Open and Closed Posture

Two forms of posture have been identified, ‘open’ and ‘closed’, which may reflect an individual’s degree of confidence, status or receptivity to another person.

  • Closed –Someone seated in a closed position might have his/her arms folded, legs crossed or be positioned at a slight angle from the person with whom they are interacting. Closed posture might imply discomfort or disinterest.
  • Open —In an open posture, you might expect to see someone directly facing you with hands apart on the arms of the chair. An open posture can be used to communicate openness or interest in someone and a readiness to listen, whereas the
  • Eye Contact, where the amount of eye contact often determines the level of trust and trustworthiness;
  1. Para-language, or aspects of the voice apart from speech, such as pitch, tone, and speed of speaking;
  2. Closeness or Personal Space (Proxemics), which determines the level of intimacy;

The study of personal space is called proxemics.

The Four Main Categories of Proxemics

  • Intimate Distance (touching to 45cm)
  • Personal Distance (45cm to 1.2m)
  • Social Distance (1.2m to 3.6m)
  • Public Distance (3.7m to 4.5m)

These four distances are associated with the four main types of relationship – intimate, personal, social and public.

  • Intimate Distance:

Intimate distance ranges from close contact (touching) to the ‘far’ phase of 15-45cm.

In British society, it tends to be seen as an inappropriate distance for public behaviour and entering the intimate space of another person with whom you do not have a close relationship can be extremely disturbing.

  • Personal Distance:

The ‘far’ phase of personal distance is considered to be the most appropriate for people holding a conversation. At this distance it is easy to see the other person’s expressions and eye movements, as well as their overall body language. Handshaking can occur within the bounds of personal distance.

  • Social Distance:

This is the normal distance for impersonal business, for example working together in the same room or during social gatherings.

Seating is also important; communication is far more likely to be considered as a formal relationship if the interaction is carried out across a desk.

  • Public Distance:

 Teachers and public speakers address groups at a public distance..

  1. Facial Expressions, including smiling, frowning and even blinking; and
  • Physiological Changes, for example, sweating or blinking more when nervous.

viii. Personal Appearance

  • Personal appearance is an often disregarded part of communication and presentation skills.
  • The way you dress and take care of your general appearance are important factors in personal presentation, what messages does the way you dress send to others?

Visual impact is at least as important as verbal impact, people will very quickly make assumptions based on your

  • facial expressions,
  • the clothes you wear,
  • how well groomed you are and
  • your body language
  • even time management

It is important to be suitably dressed within expected limits. Smarter or casual

Whilst you might be casually dressed when working within your locals, a more formal approach may well be preferable when representing your institution or church at an external meeting.

Positive and Negative Body Language

Positive body language includes:

  • Maintaining eye contact with the person you are speaking to.
  • Smiling (if appropriate) but especially as a greeting and at the end of a conversation.
  • Sitting squarely on a chair, leaning slightly forward (this indicates you are paying attention).
  • Nodding in agreement.
  • A firm handshake.
  • Presenting a calm exterior.
  • Looking interested.

Negative body language includes:

  • Not looking at a person when speaking.
  • Tapping a foot, fingers etc.
  • Rocking backwards and forwards.
  • Scratching.
  • Continually clearing your throat.
  • Fiddling with hair, ear lobes, jewellery, jacket, glasses, etc.
  • Picking at fingers or finger nails.
  • Yawning.
  • Repeatedly looking at your watch or a clock in the room.
  • Standing too close to others.
  • Inattention to a person who is speaking.

Building a rapport

For many, starting a conversation with a stranger is a stressful event; we can be lost for words, awkward with our body language and mannerisms.  Creating rapport at the beginning of a conversation with somebody new will often make the outcome of the conversation more positive.

  • Use non-threatening and ‘safe topics’ for initial small talk.  Talk about established shared experiences, the weather, how you travelled to where you are.
  • Avoid talking too much about yourself and avoid asking direct questions about the other person.
  • Listen to what the other person is saying and look for shared experiences or circumstances – this will give you more to talk about in the initial stages of communication.
  • Try to inject an element of humour.  Laughing together creates harmony, make a joke about yourself or the situation/circumstances you are in but avoid making jokes about other people.
  • If you are sitting then lean forward, towards the person you are talking to, with hands open and arms and legs uncrossed.  This is open body language and will help you and the person you are talking to feel more relaxed.
  • Look at the other person for approximately 60% of the time.  Give plenty of eye-contact but be careful not to make them feel uncomfortable.
  • When listening, nod and make encouraging sounds and gestures.
  • Smile!
  • Use the other person’s name early in the conversation.


  • It is inevitable that, from time-to-time, conflict and disagreement will arise as the differing needs, wants, aims and beliefs of people are brought together.
  • The point of negotiation is to try to reach agreements without causing future barriers to communications

The process of negotiation includes the following stages:

  1. Preparation
  2. Discussion
  1. Clarification of goals –
  • goals, interests and viewpoints of both sides of the disagreement need to be clarified.
  1. Negotiate towards a Win-Win outcome—
  • a ‘win-win’ outcome where both sides feel they have gained something positive through the process of negotiation and both sides feel their point of view has been taken into consideration.
  1. Agreement
  2. Implementation of a course of action

For effective negotiations,

both in formal situations and in less formal or one-to-one negotiations.

The following communication skills are needed

  • Effective verbal communication.
  • Listening.
  • Reducing misunderstandings is a key part of effective negotiation.
  • Rapport Building.
  • Problem Solving.
  • Decision Making.
  • Assertiveness.

Mediation Skills

Mediation is the involvement of an impartial third party to support and help those involved in a conflict to find a resolution.

The key difference between negotiation and mediation is that in negotiation, the parties involved work out their own agreement.

In mediation, they have the support of the third party, the mediator, to help them come to an agreement.

Skills Mediators Need

A mediator needs a range of skills, including:

  • Active listening skills
  • Questioning and clarifying skills
  • Emotional intelligence to understand the underlying emotions.
  • Summarising skills to set out the main points of controversy, and underlying emotions, and also to help the participants to reframe issues in less emotive language.

Communicating in Difficult Situations

There are two distinct types of difficult conversation, planned and unplanned:

Doctors and other Health Care Professionals may need to communicate bad or unexpected news to patients and relations of patients, for example, diagnosis and prognosis.  Such professionals will have received training and will have worked in practise scenarios to help them to deliver such news effectively and sensitively.

Police and other Law Enforcement Officers may need to communicate bad news to victims of crime or their family and friends.  Such professionals will have received at least basic training in delivering bad news.

Managers in organisations may need to communicate difficult information on several levels, to staff about sacking, suspensions or those who are under-performing.


Your Job as a leader. Whatever your line of work, there will be times when, you will need to be able to communicate difficult information effectively to others. ,

Writing skills

1.                 Writing an Executive summary

Being asked to write an executive summary, whether for a policy paper, pamphlet, briefing paper or report, may be a daunting prospect if you’ve never done it before.

The introduction sets the scene, and explains what the paper is about, including what action needs to be taken as a result.

The main body of the text outlines the key findings and/or recommendations from the report or paper to which this is the summary.

Finally, you need a conclusion, which outlines the take-home messages or action needed from the person reading the report. Bullet points are a useful form to highlight the key points, and this is where your three to five messages come in

2.                 Writing a Report

Reports may contain some or all of the following elements:

  • A description of a sequence of events or a situation; (most people stopped at this)
  • Some interpretation of the significance of these events or situation, whether solely your own analysis or informed by the views of others, always carefully referenced of course (Literature review)
  • An evaluation of the facts or the results of your research;
  • Discussion of the likely outcomes of future courses of action;
  • Your recommendations as to a course of action; and
  • Conclusions.


  1. Writing minutes of meeting
  • Date
  • Venue
  • The body holding the meeting
  • Attendance
  • Quote or write in ones own word
  • Write more about decisions and not the process that lead to it.
  • Adjournment
  • Time the meeting begins and adjourn
  • The agenda serves as template for minutes






  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation
  3. Smile
  4. Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest
  5. Avoid arguments
  6. Never tell anybody they are wrong, if you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”
  7. Begin in a friendly way
  8. Make other people feel important and do it sincerely
  9. Call attention to other people’s mistakes indirectly
  10. Talk about your own mistakes first
  11. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders
  12. Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct



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