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Leadership Communication Skills: The 8 Core Traits of Effective Leadership Communication

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

Successful leadership hinges on a leader’s communication skills and abilities.

The ability to articulate ideas, processes, goals & plans of action to colleagues and team members is a vital part of a successful leader’s job.

To effectively lead a team or organization, the importance of being able to express yourself with conciseness and clarity cannot be overlooked.

Read on to learn why leaders need to continually evolve their communication skills, the eight most important verbal leadership communication skills, non- verbal communication skills & how to go about improving your communication skills and leadership abilities to lead your teams and company to Fortune 500 level success.

Why is Communication Important in Leadership

Communication is essential for effective leadership because any leader who wants to inspire, motivate & lead a team or business to new heights of success must know how to communicate in a variety of situations and tailor their message for different audiences.

Poor communication skills drown teams and hinder a team’s ability to mesh and work together cohesively as a unit towards defined goals and outcomes.

The Benefits of Effective Communication Skills

Effective leadership communication in the workplace is one of the primary leadership skills that set the tone for day-to-day operations, office morale, and maintaining healthy working relationships.

Build Trust and Credibility

Authentic, consistent, and open communication channels are the foundation for solid relationships and building trust and credibility with colleagues, team members & stakeholders.

With clear, honest communication leaders can foster an environment of respect & trust that leads to greater engagement, improved collaboration & output.

Motivate and Inspire Team Members

Effective communication skills are critical for motivating & inspiring team members to work towards a common goal and achieve success.

Facilitate Collaboration

Open, honest, effective communication is the cornerstone of successful teamwork and building a strong culture of trust and collaboration.

Effective Decision-Making

Great leaders listen & establish strong lines of open two-way communication with their team, enabling the breadth, and depth of knowledge required for an informed decision-making process.

Conflict Resolution

Effective communication skills are critical for resolving conflicts among team members & finding common ground during disagreements.

Manage Change & Uncertainty

Effective communication is critical for managing change and leading in the face of uncertainty and helping team members understand and accept change, which can reduce resistance & increase buy-in.

Communicate Vision and Strategy

Great communication skills are vital to relay organizational goals, vision, and strategy to team members and stakeholders helping to align efforts, improve employee engagement & overcome challenges.

The Eight Core Communication Traits of a Leader

From our experience working with hundreds of senior leaders in a broad range of industries we have identified the eight core communication traits:

  1. Active listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Transparency
  4. Adaptability
  5. Clarity
  6. Confidence
  7. Conflict resolution
  8. Inspirational communication

Active listening

Active Listening is the ability to fully engage with and understand other perspectives. It requires leaders to put aside their own biases & opinions, and truly listen to what their team members have to say and understand their needs, concerns, and perspectives. Active listening helps build trust, foster collaboration, and identify potential problems and opportunities.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy allows leaders to connect on a personal level making team members feel that their leader understands them, cares about them, and can understand and address issues that may be impacting the morale or productivity of their team.


Transparency is the ability to be open and honest in communication. It builds trust & credibility with team members as they feel like they know where they stand and are more likely to believe their leader has their best interests in mind and also helps prevent misunderstandings and conflicts while promoting a culture of openness & accountability.


Adaptability is the ability to adjust communication style to fit the audience and situation. Adaptability allows leaders to communicate with different types of people and in different situations - ex: a team of highly technical experts vs a group of non-technical stakeholders.

Adaptability also allows leaders to adjust their communication style to fit the context of the situation - ex: a crisis situation compared to a routine update.


Accurate, reliable communication is essential for successful leadership. Clarity is the ability to communicate effectively & succinctly, eliminating jargon &reducing ambiguity. Clarity helps leaders ensure their information and instructions are conveyed precisely and received without confusion—helping prevent wasted time and resources.


Confidence is the ability to communicate assertively and with conviction. When leaders can communicate confidently, team members are more likely to trust & believe their leader can lead them to success. Confidence also helps leaders convey important information and make decisions effectively.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is the ability to facilitate communication during disagreements to find common ground, prevent conflicts from escalating into bigger problems, and overall maintain a positive, productive work environment, keeping teams moving forward even in the face of interpersonal adversity.

Inspirational Communication

Inspirational communication is the ability to inspire and motivate others through communication and helping to keep the team motivated and focused on its goals and building a positive, upbeat team culture leading to higher levels of productivity & engagement.

The Importance of Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Nonverbal communication can have a huge impact on how words are received & perceived. Develop your nonverbal communication skills to support your verbal message valuable nonverbal communication skills like:

Body Language

Body language speaks volumes. Posture, Gestures, Facial expressions, etc ensure your physical cues are in line with your verbal message and it conveys confidence, openness & engagement.


Leaders should be aware of the distance they maintain from others during communication. Maintaining appropriate proximity can convey respect, interest, or intimacy, depending on the context.

Eye Contact

Leaders need to make eye contact during communication. Eye contact conveys interest, confidence & trustworthiness.

Tone of Voice

Leaders need to pay attention to their tone of voice and ensure their tone is appropriate for the situation and that it supports their verbal message.

Dress & Grooming

Leaders need to be aware their attire and grooming convey professionalism and authority or fit into the culture of the team and company.

Timing of Nonverbal Communication

Leaders should also pay attention to the timing of nonverbal cues. Things like pausing before responding to a question, or nodding in agreement - these cues can convey understanding, consideration, or agreement.

Being Aware of Cultural Variations

Nonverbal communication may vary across cultures. You need to be sensitive to the cultural backgrounds of the people they communicate with.

How to Improve Leadership Communication Skills

Effective leadership communication needs to be stimulating, inspiring & sympathetic to employees’ ideas and needs in order for them to fulfill their potential.

How Leaders Can Develop Their Communication Skills

Nowadays, there are multiple ways leaders are developing excellent communication skills:

Leadership Training and Education

Leaders can take courses or workshops on effective communication and leadership, which can provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to communicate effectively.

Practice and Feedback

Leaders can practice their communication skills in real-life situations and seek feedback from others on their performance. This can help them to identify areas for improvement and make adjustments to their communication style.


Effective leaders can take the time to reflect on their communication style and identify areas for improvement. They can also observe how others communicate and take note of what they like and dislike about their communication style.

Coaching and Mentoring

Leaders can work with a coach or mentor who can provide them with guidance and support as they develop their communication skills.

Reading and Research

Leaders can read books, articles, and research effective communication and leadership to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

Observing and Learning From Others

Leaders can observe how other leaders communicate and learn from their examples. They can also seek out role models and learn from their communication style.

Being open to Feedback

Leaders need to be open to feedback from teams and colleagues as this can provide valuable insights into how they are perceived and how their communication is received.

Good communication skills open up doors to career paths and advancement and potentially a dream job.

As you progress in your career path, it’s essential to focus on developing your own communication abilities and practices, whether that means practicing active listening, focusing on clarity when communicating your point of view or simply engaging people in meaningful dialogue, these practices will help you become an effective leader.

Leadership communication skills are not one-size-fits-all but with the right training and practice, great leaders can manage conversations strategically to solve problems, reduce conflicts, and increase productivity.

Although the development of these skills takes time & effort - the professional success effective leaders earn is well worth it.

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