Great leaders are always great communicators, but not always great speakers. Great leaders may not excel with a microphone, but they are able to communicate what is valued and what direction is being taken. Communication and leadership are intertwined and deeply connected. When leaders fumble in execution, culture formation, or rallying a team, the fumble is often in communication. Leadership mistakes are often synonymous with communication mistakes. Execution problems are often synonymous with lapses in communication. Here are three major communication struggles leaders should seek to avoid:
With the plethora of messages people hear, it is very difficult to over-communicate and extremely easy to under-communicate. Unless you are tired of communicating essential beliefs, vision, and direction, you have not even come close to communicating enough. When people on a leader’s team are unclear about what is important or where the team is headed, communication is underwhelming them.
2. Contradictory communication
While under-communication leaves a team unclear, contradictory communication leaves them frustrated. Contradictory communication occurs when leaders communicate messages that are actually opposed to one another.
Here are a few examples from church life:
- A ministry leader articulates that we want you to know your neighbors, coach your kid’s little league games, and be involved in your neighborhoods. A few minutes later, a listing of five things to do at the church that week is read to the congregation. The messages contradict one another.
- A pastor says to the church, “If you really want to be cared for, be in a small group.” And then a few weeks later, the leader seeks to recruit group leaders with “Anyone can be a leader. All you need to do is press play and make coffee.” Both messages cannot be true. It takes more than making coffee to care for a person.
3. Misaligned communication
Misaligned communication happens when the language doesn’t match the reality, and it causes people to shrug at the language. When actions are not aligned to values, people don’t trust the values. When leaders say one thing and live differently, people don’t trust the leaders.
Communicate the important things over and over again. If they are really important, and only declared to be so, communication that is contradictory won’t be tolerated. Then comes the hard work of aligning actions and decision-making to what has been heralded.