Strong communication skills are a must for any leader, whether they are needed to manage employees, voice expectations and assign tasks, or to convince potential investors or partners to back an organization. A great leader must be able to properly communicate their thoughts and inspire people -- to the point where the success and growth of their business hinges in large part on their communication skills.
These seven entrepreneurs share what they believe to be the most important communication secrets of leadership, and how mastering them can make you a better leader.
"The greatest communication secret is listening. It may sound counterintuitive, but in order to lead, one must listen first," says digital marketing expert Jean Ginzburg.
And making an effort to become a better listener has definitely paid off for her business. She adds, "I had to change my communication strategy a few years ago to be more cognizant of listening to clients, not just speaking -- which I had thought was the best way to win clients. This strategy has revolutionized my business and I recommend it to new entrepreneurs."
Open Body Language
When communicating, paying attention to nonverbal cues is essential, according to SeedProd LLC Founder John Turner: "Body language is very important to successful communication. The people you speak to will be more open to you and your message if your body language is warm and accepting."
Turner believes people should become more aware of their body language and make a conscientious effort to improve it, as well as learn to read others' correctly. "Smile more, make eye contact, don't cross your arms, etc. Pay attention to the other person's body language, too. You'll be able to tell how they feel during the conversation and can shift the conversation accordingly," he explains.
Storytelling and Vulnerability
A great way to establish a connection and inspire people via engaging communication is to share personal stories with your listener, thinks Birdsong CEO Monica Snyder.
"Stories that make us feel stick around in our lives much longer than anything else," she says. "When I'm vulnerable and willing to share my stories, especially the ones of hard times and how I moved past them, it inspires people to push past their obstacles and keep moving toward their goals."
Adaptability to Different Communication Styles
Connecting with the people you're trying to lead is indeed of crucial importance, Passport Co-Founder and COO Aaron Schwartz agrees. "No matter how much charisma you have or how good of a listener you are, the real impact is when you connect deeply with everyone you're trying to lead," he says.
And the best communication secret, in Schwartz's opinion, is "that you have to get to know everyone you're trying to lead, and change what you say and how you say it based on the audience."
Leaders should always remember to be fair and kind in their messages and approach, according to Kristin Kimberly Marquet, founder and creative director of Creative Development Agency, LLC.
"As a leader of a small group, I've found that the best way to communicate with my staff is to show them genuine kindness and fairness. I strive to treat everyone the same, which helps build trust and positive relationships," Marquet says.
Implementation of Feedback
To further improve their communication skills, good leaders should actively seek feedback from others. "Just as it is said that the best apology is changed behavior, the best communication secret of great leaders is asking for feedback, then implementing it," reveals Zev Herman, president of Superior Lighting.
"We recently had employees communicate that our office is too noisy on client-heavy days, and they need quiet to focus and concentrate. We agreed to try out a work-from-home schedule planned ahead of time to accommodate this productivity concern," Herman explains.
Understanding of Motivation and Engagement
"Great leaders are masters of getting people motivated, inspired and engaged," says Justin Faerman, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine.
One of the most powerful ways to achieve this, Faerman believes, is by understanding universal human needs and behavioral drivers and then appealing to these themes in your communication: "Frame your message in terms of how it will help people achieve their needs for connection, happiness, security and success, and you'll be able to lead nations."