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why good leaders are good communicators

For a leader, communication is connection and inspiration – not just transmission of information.” — Gary Burnison, The Twelve Absolutes of Leadership

Most of may remember the basic definition of communication we learned in school: you have a sender and a receiver and information flows between the two.  Communication has occurred if the transmission was successful.

Along the way, we recognize the deficiencies in such a definition.  If the receiver doesn’t understand what the sender has said, no matter how often he or she says it, communication has not occurred.  If the sender isn’t listening, communication has not occurred.  And, according to Gary Burnison, if the transmission of information is the only goal, communication has not occurred.

Good leaders understand that one role of communication is to forge a connection with the listener.  A good speech or conversation reinforces what the sender and receiver have in common.  Leaders (or preachers or teachers) use communication moments as an opportunity to build bridges.  A good preacher will speak to the pathos of the crowd, saying, “I am one of you.”

Good leaders also recognize the inspiration aspect of communication.  We all can sense the difference between one who talks because she likes to hear herself talk and the one who talks because she has our interest at heart.  There are teachers who are only concerned with transmitting facts; and then there are teachers who hope to instill a passion for the subject within their students.  Leaders from Jesus to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr., have seized communication moments and turned them into catalytic events.

Words can either inspire, deflate, or bore.  Wise leaders choose them wisely.