Decoding leadership communication: Insights and illustrations

Strong, capable leaders know how to communicate directly and effectively. Many leaders aren’t born with this skill. Instead, they’ve built the skills to effectively bridge the gap between themselves and their audience. 

The world’s best leaders understand how to use strategic communication techniques to ensure their messages resonate and hit the mark every time.

Keep reading to learn the most common leadership communication skills. We’ll also explore how some of today’s most well-known leaders use these skills to build their following and make an impact.

What is leadership communication?

Leadership communication refers to the methods and techniques a leader uses to share information with their audience, whether that’s a small team or a large crowd.

In the workplace, improving your leadership communication skills can help you captivate, empower and encourage your team to achieve their goals.

According to Grammarly's 2023 State of Business Communication Report, teams that use high-quality and empathy-led leadership communication are more likely to: 

  • save resources, 
  • land deals and 
  • build a better brand reputation.

Outside of the workplace, leadership communication skills foster improved relationships with friends and family. And you can use these skills to communicate more effectively in large group settings, so you never have to fear a wedding speech again. 

Becoming a more confident communicator and leader in your personal life is one of the best ways to gain respect, express your opinions well and better connect with your loved ones.

Essential communication skills for leaders

Even if you don’t feel like leadership comes easy to you, it doesn’t mean you can’t improve your skills by working on your communication style.

Great leaders understand the importance of clear and effective communication, so they use techniques to ensure their audience understands their message.

Examples of leadership communication techniques and traits that will make you a more effective leader include:

Adaptability

To be a great leader and communicator, you need to be able to roll with the punches.

Adaptability is an essential skill of a great leader. It ensures you can change your plans to better meet the needs of your audience or environment as you go.

This is a great communication skill to develop, as it shows that you’re engaged with your surroundings and plugged into your audience's energy.

Adjusting on the fly keeps your audience engaged, prevents disconnect and ensures your core messaging is clear.

Here are a few techniques to practice to become a more adaptable communicator:

  • Watch your audience to become more aware of their engagement level
  • Monitor for emotional changes throughout your meeting or speech
  • Be willing to change the tempo or pacing of your speech to fit the atmosphere
  • Know how to go off script when needed to avoid coming across as stuffy or rehearsed
  • Get to know your audience before your presentation so you can include them when you are making points or need an example

Not everyone can do impromptu speaking. But it’s a skill you can practice over time. It’s a great way to include and engage your audience, which can be powerful and effective. 

Storytelling skills

An effective leader understands the power and impact of a well-crafted story. Speakers who add impactful, emotion-driven stories to their communication have a higher chance of resonating with their chosen audience.

Storytelling can set the tone for your meeting, speech or event and get everyone on the same page. It also helps you create a joint vision and understanding of what’s to come.

Depending on the situation, you can use storytelling in several ways. You can draw inspiration from the TED Talk greats and use it as the primary vehicle for your inspirational speeches. 

You can also use it to emphasize a key point. If you’re educating an audience about drunk driving, you could add a personal anecdote to ensure your message resonates.

To tap into the power of storytelling and improve your leadership communication skills, here are a few techniques to try:

  • Identify and empathize with shared concerns and stresses
  • use descriptive language to paint a picture of the problem
  • share personal anecdotes to build trust and be more relatable
  • create a vivid image of success to drive your team 

Empathy

Well-loved leaders understand the emotional impact of their message and know how to connect to the needs and wants of their audience.

The ability to relate to others is a valuable skill that boosts trust, morale and overall motivation. Empathy is crucial in our daily lives, helping us validate feelings, listen to concerns and foster a sense of assurance and belonging, whether at home or in the workplace.

Showing vulnerability in a presentation or with your team can create a strong connection. Leaders who can relate to their audience can be a support system for people with similar problems.

Consider using the following empathetic leadership communication techniques:

  • intentionally setting aside time to check in with your team
  • listening to concerns and problems as they arise
  • validating feelings and encouraging open sharing of ideas
  • being open to feedback to improve your leadership skills

Active listening

To be a strong communicator, you need to be a strong listener. Great leaders use active listening techniques to achieve this goal.

Active listening is a blanket term for various techniques that show you’re engaged in a conversation. It creates a deeper sense of connection between the speaker and audience.

Great leaders will use active listening techniques to build trust, as it’s an effective tool that shows compassion and interest. 

Examples of effective active listening techniques for leaders include:

  • making appropriate eye contact throughout the conversation
  • avoiding interrupting the speaker
  • turning towards the person speaking and giving them your full attention
  • removing distractions from your space

Open body language

Nonverbal communication (body language) significantly influences how your audience or team perceives you.

Anyone looking to improve their communication skills should use open, confident body language when leading an event. This silent skill establishes authority and effortlessly engages an audience.

Audiences want leaders to seem strong, capable and in control. How you stand, sit and position yourself during a meeting or speech significantly impacts how much your audience trusts you.

Examples of ways to improve your body language to become a more effective leader include:

  • turning to directly face your audience or team when speaking
  • being mindful of your facial expressions
  • avoiding crossing your arms across your chest when listening
  • leaning toward the person speaking to show interest
  • sitting or standing with good posture

Influential leaders in action: Leadership communication examples

The world’s best leaders are well-versed in communication strategies to help them relate and resonate with their audiences. This ensures they can share their core messaging and beliefs in a way the audience can understand and appreciate.

Here are some examples of well-known leaders and public speakers who use leadership communication techniques to inspire and impact:

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama (First Lady of the United States of America, 2009–2017) is one of the 21st-century's most influential public speakers and role models.

As a multi-talented lawyer, author, political figure and speaker, Michelle uses her position to be a positive influence. She regularly speaks on topics like poverty awareness, educational opportunities, health and nutrition.

Michelle writes and delivers speeches with high levels of empathy and compassion, helping her connect with her audience. She also keeps things real, which audiences appreciate. 

How Michelle Obama displays leadership communication skills:

  • She uses a direct and clear speaking voice, emphasizing important words and phrases to leave an impression.
  • She uses empathy to connect and resonate with her audience.
  • She is a powerful storyteller, weaving narratives and anecdotes that support her message into her speeches and as she speaks.

Conan O’Brien

Conan O’Brien is a late-night talk show host and a charismatic, entertaining speaker. He uses leadership communication techniques to engage his audience and guests.

Conan is the perfect example of how authenticity is vital for any great leader. He has an impressive ability to engage a crowd with his humor, and he’s willing to poke fun at himself.

Besides being funny, Conan is also a skilled interviewer. He makes guests comfortable in his presence, coaxing out natural and engaging conversations. This makes the listening and interviewing experience much more pleasant. 

How Conan O’Brien displays leadership communication skills:

  • He uses open body language when talking to guests on his podcast or show.
  • He asks confirmation questions during natural conversation lulls to keep everyone engaged.
  • He uses humor to establish a comfortable atmosphere for himself and his guests.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is a musician and songwriter who has taken the world by storm with her brand of pop music, which resonates with her audience's personal experiences and stories.

Taylor is known for speaking her heart and sharing personal experiences that endear her to her audience. She’s also outspoken about causes that matter to her.

She’s the perfect example of a public figure who knows how to use leadership communication techniques to foster community and understanding.

How Taylor Swift displays leadership communication skills:

  • She uses strong, confident body language to support her performances.
  • She is transparent about her struggles, and her vulnerability creates a connection. 
  • Even on a large stage, she uses eye contact with the audience.
  • She uses vivid imagery and storytelling to build an emotional connection with her fans.

Ramit Sethi

Ramit Sethi is a personal finance author, coach and podcast host who became prominent through his recent Netflix show, “How To Get Rich.”

Ramit is known for his unique personal finance focus, which includes quotes like “spend extravagantly on things you love, and cut mercilessly on things you don't.” 

He uses leadership communication skills to instill confidence in his audience while supporting them through tough conversations. He can also talk about sensitive topics like money, stress and debt in a warm, safe and engaging way.

Ways Ramit Sethi displays leadership communication:

  • He adapts his communication style to the people he interviews, creating a safer, inviting environment.
  • He regularly uses confirming questions and active listening techniques during conversations to show he is engaged.
  • He uses future-oriented phrasing to paint a picture of success that speaks directly to his audience's needs and wants.

Become a better leader by improving your communication skills

Leadership communication is a broad concept with many techniques that make you a more effective and strong communicator.

The world’s most well-loved leaders understand how to use communication to motivate, empower and connect with their audience. You can use these skills to tap into the same power.

Want to improve upon your existing communication style and open doors to personal and professional growth?

Get ready to become a better communicator and leader with the help of Pip Decks. Visit our website to explore our unique collection of leadership communication resources.


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