Small Business and Startups: Number One Leadership Skill

“Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

Let’s see. Strength? Nah. Productivity? Nope. Ability to instill fear? No way. The number one skill any great leader needs is the ability to communicate clearly, effectively, and quickly. Great leaders do display strength and determination, that’s for sure; great leaders do lead by example and can get piles of work done in the time it takes to write this paragraph; great leaders can also be intimidating, no doubt (if in doubt about any of these characteristics read up on General Patton).

But, to my thinking the one leadership skill that rises above all others is the two-sided ability: to convey information clearly, quickly, and regularly to your team, your investors, your customers and to be able to simultaneously listen closely to what the other has to say and to discern their intent and understand their message. In other words, if you can’t string together an effective sentence, written or oral, and if you are unable to be attentive and hear what is being communicated in return, you are probably not cut out to take the lead.

Here are a few ways that strong communication will make you a better leader:

Motivate In order to deliver the highest quality work product and operate at a high level of productivity and efficiency, our team needs to feel motivated. How you communicate to them as well as how you listen to them can significantly impact their attitude towards their job, their team members, and your company.

Inspire It is your job to inspire people to greater things; how you communicate can have a remarkable effect on their overall attitude towards the company and your customers. People need to feel that they are art of something, that they are contributing to a greater whole and your communication abilities can kindle creativity, inventiveness, and ingenuity.

Debate The strongest leaders have the ability to persuade others to their way of thinking; they can frame an argument, express their viewpoint, and demonstrate the strength of their position. Debate does not always have to be a formal event; even lunch table conversations between you and your team can be lively and fun bonding experiences for all.

Listen Great communication ability must also come with an equal ability to listen and learn from what the other person is saying; without the capacity to attend to what others say to you, you will miss the opportunity to lead. Listening builds strong relationships, and models the most effective way to connect, whether with other members of the team or customers and clients.

Teach Strong communication skills can help people to learn from you and from each other. Each person you communicate with wants to achieve something, personally or professionally, and your ability to communicate well can help them accomplish those goals. Be a teacher, be a leader.

Photo, Wikipedia: Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra