OTHER than the ability to think, with which it is inextricably linked, there is no more important skill for a leader* than the ability to communicate well.
The 1st rule of effective communication is to listen well. Hopefully you’ve already heard that.
So what’s the 2nd rule?
Clarity, clarity, clarity.
Let me use a few clichés to try and gain some clarity:
Get to the point;
Don’t beat around the bush;
Cut to the chase;
Say what you mean;
Don’t cloud the issue;
Don’t mince words,
Don’t pussyfoot around;
Don’t beg the question, blow hot & cold, cover-up, dodge, double-talk, fence, flip-flop, hem & haw, jive, parry, shuffle, sidestep, sit on the fence, or tell white lies.
Tell it like it is. Be clear. Be concise.
How many times has a conflict at work, at home, in your social circle ended up being nothing more than a misunderstanding? Many times, right?
How many times have you seen a delegated task messed up because of misunderstood instructions?
How many times have you sat in a meeting wishing the waffle would finally end?
How many speeches have left you wondering what the heck was said, despite droning on and on?
Words are precious, don’t waste them. Words represent concepts and concepts are how we know and how we inform. Few things are more precious than knowledge and information.
And here’s the thing; you can only speak as well as you can think. Think clearly and, other things equal, you’ll speak clearly. If your thoughts are muddled, or not really your own, what you say and how you say it will reflect that.
So, for better communication, learn to think well, practice, and make time regularly to just think. That’s the foundation.
Then, when you engage with others: Listen first. Then think. Speak last, and say the most with the least.
If you’d like to work on your thinking skills, see here.
PS: Did a little light go on in your head, highlighting the fact that reading a lot – reading well – is a great way to improve your thinking skills? It’s because reading improves your language skills, and you need language to think. The better your command of your language, the greater your thinking potential will be.
*What’s good for “a leader” is good for us all. Ultimately, good leaders are just really good at doing what all of us need to do: Thinking, engaging others, learning, and valuing. The only difference between you and a CEO is scope and scale.