Ronald E Riggio Ph.D.

Work on this competency and your effectiveness will soar.

Effective leadership is about developing and nurturing your relationships with followers. The very best leaders connect with followers and have high-quality relationships with them. So, what is the one thing that any leader can do that will make him or her more effective?

Answer: Improve communication skills.

Leaders use communication skills to connect with followers, but also in other ways. Leaders are representatives and spokespersons for their groups and organizations. Leaders also need to be diplomats–solving conflicts among group members, advocating for their group to higher-ups, and taking charge in a crisis.

Finally, the best leaders are able to articulate a compelling vision in order to motivate followers.

All of these require high-level communication skills.

What are some of the basic communication skills and how do you improve them?

Emotional Expressiveness.  This is the ability to effectively emphasize emotion in your communications. This is particularly important when trying to motivate followers, and when making presentations. The expression of positive affect and enthusiasm is critical. How do you work on this?

To improve emotional expressiveness, you need to get some feedback, whether that is asking trusted friends for it, or videotaping yourself, get a sense of how good you are at expressing feelings.
Try wearing a smile – greeting others with a smile and general positive affectivity will help. Great leaders are upbeat and optimistic.

Emotional Sensitivity is skill in “reading” others’ emotions and is related to empathy. A leader needs to be able to understand followers’ feelings and concerns and react appropriately to them

To improve emotional sensitivity, focus on facial expressions and tone of voice. Use active listening techniques, such as reflecting back (“I hear you saying you are satisfied, but I sense that you’re not…”).

Emotional Regulation. At times, you need to rein in your strong emotions – particularly the negative ones.

Again, get feedback about your emotional expressions from others. When experiencing strong emotions, take time to think, or when angry, count to ten.

Improving Complex Social Skills: Social Expressiveness.  This is your ability to speak, both in formal presentations, but also your ability to make good conversations, one-on-one or in small groups.

Social Sensitivity. Where Emotional Sensitivity is ability to read others’ emotions, social sensitivity is ability to read social situations, and learning how to “fit in.”

Enhance your powers of observation. Study the cues being given off by others.  Learn the culture of the group or organization you are leading and learn how to adapt.

Social Control (“Knowing how to be”). This is playing the role of the leader. Taking charge in situations where you need to.

Thinking ahead and adequate preparation (rehearsing) of leadership situations will help.

Again, communication is the essential foundation for effective leadership. It’s the one general competency that always works and can always use improvement. More about improving basic communication skills here.


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