Gretchen Rosswurm, who has worked for several Fortune 500 firms and is currently Director of Global Corporate Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility at Celanese, a global chemical company in Dallas, says the outstanding leaders she has worked with share five “communication habits” that help the people around them perform more effectively.

1. They share an inspiring vision of the future. They “build a sense of shared purpose” and their visions answer several questions: Where are we going? What does it look like? What are the benefits? What role do I play in the success? They’re also consistent — painting their visions every chance they get. “Eloquence isn’t a requirement. Have a clear picture of the end goal, be consistent in how you describe it and create opportunities to engage with the influencers who can make or break success,” Rosswurm says.

2. They listen. Good leaders “make it okay for employees and stakeholders to share their candid opinions. They show compassion and humanity to make people feel heard,” she says. Also, “listening with patience and attention will win respect.”

3. They’re honest. Effective leaders demonstrate their regard for their teams by demonstrating their honesty in word and deed. That earns them respect and loyalty. “Employees may not like everything you have to say, but they will respect you and perform when you communicate early and often,” Rosswurm advises.

4. They widen the circle of involvement. Effective leaders always start with a small group (recall Jesus and his apostles), but they don’t stop there. Leaders who continually engage and involve more people in the vision find that support grows organically and naturally,” she says. But even while they draw people to their vision, they listen. That’s how they come to understand what’s required to be even more influential in the future.

5. They match their message with their audiences. We’re not talking about changing one’s vision to patronize audiences. We’re talking about presenting one’s vision in various packages that will be compelling to various people. Says Rosswurm: “Some embrace data; others rely on feelings and intuition. Some like visuals; some want to be told. A good leader uses all of these to create a message that resonates with more people. It shows respect for learning styles and diversity.” 

Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute

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