5 Roadblocks to Leadership Communication

The other day I was waiting for a friend at a coffee shop when I overheard a conversation between a young man and woman who worked together. I was sitting so close to them that I couldn’t help but hear them complaining about the way their manager, Steve, who had given a bland presentation about an important project. He outlined the way it would be done, without asking for feedback from the folks who would actually executive the project.

When they gathered their things to leave, the woman said with frustration, “Well, it all starts at the top!

I thought about how often that comment follows one about the lack of leadership in other parts of the company—and how it says volumes about what’s not working.

Here are the top five roadblocks to leadership communication we’ve observed over the years:

 It all starts at the top!
5 Roadblocks to Leadership
  1. Lackluster messages. With so much to gain, the majority of people still don’t put the level of heart into their communication required to pull off something exceptional. It’s a leader’s job to create a credible, intelligent and compelling message—not to sound like the last corporate memo.
  2. Invulnerability. Leaders who want to be perfect and self-sufficient wind up sounding impersonal. But people are engaged by leaders who can occasionally kick back and laugh at their mistakes. We trust people who are relatable, genuine and down-to-earth.
  3. Inflexibility. Rigidity around “doing it your way” can make you look like a small player. On the other hand, if people know they can approach you and make a case for another solution on a project, you will always be presented with the best ideas to maintain a competitive edge. You will earn the reputation of being fair and open-minded.
  1. Assuming the message is received. It’s a mistake to assume that your message is perfectly clear. To check that you’ve been understood, use open questions such as “how can we improve this?” or “what have missed?” Open-ended questions will help people explain what they’ve taken from your communication—and what they need to understand to get on board.
  2. Defensiveness. If you can’t listen to someone disagree without tightening your voice and asserting your authority, people may actively dislike you. However, if you invite healthy debate with confidence and curiosity, we will respect and trust you.
We are all leaders within a company, at home, or in our community.

At some point, in some way, we are all leaders within a company, at home, or in our community.

What style of communication gets attributed to you when they say, “It all starts at the top!”?

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Lou Solomon

Lou Solomon is the founder of Interact. She is a TEDx speaker and a member of the adjunct faculty at the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte. Her articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur.com, CEO.com, and Fast Company.