How Leaders can Increase their Effectiveness as a Communicator

Holistic communication

Communication is essential when it comes to leadership. A leader must master the art of communication if they want to successfully lead those around them. To do this requires a leader to think holistically about communication. Holistic communication is about making sure your body language, spoken words, and voice tone all match the message you are communicating. Effective communication happens when each of these elements are working together to send the same message.

Psychologist John Clabby coined a helpful acronym for giving your best when it comes to communication. He says, “Give your BEST – Body Language, Eye Contact, Speech, and Tone of Voice. Strive to always give your absolute BEST: body language (strong, not slumped), eye contact (focused, not wandering), speech (strong, not passive) and tone of voice (self-assured, not soft). Strive to sharpen these four aspects of your communication.”

When a leader adapts a holistic approach to communication it allows them to effectively communicate with those they lead. Let’s further discuss each of the elements John mentions in the above acronym.

Body language- A leader needs to be self-aware of their body language each time they communicate. To be in the habit of making sure it matches the words they are speaking. Body language can include: how you present yourself (if you’re hunched over or standing strait), facial expressions, as well as were you place your arms and legs. Your body language is just as important as the words you speak. Become intentional about your body language.

Eye contact- Eye contact shows the other person you are listening to what they are saying. A leader must be intentional about focusing on the person speaking and having good eye contact with them. Outside distractions (like a phone or another conversation) can cause you to lose focus of the person talking. When you are having a conversation don’t allow your cell phone or any other potential distraction, to cause you to break eye contact.

Speech (words spoken)- The words you speak are crucial to your leadership. Great communication is about using the right word choice at the right time. To be careful and wise about what comes out of your mouth. Remember the words a leader speaks has the power to raise a person up or bring them down. A leader should be intentional about using words that encourage and motivate while still influencing them toward a common vision. You have to be especially aware of your words when you are correcting someone or during a high stress situation.

Voice tone- Your voice tone can be different depending on the person you are communicating with and the topic being discussed. For example, you would not use the same voice tone when correcting as you would for praising. Make sure your voice tone matches the three elements already discussed. All while being “self-assured” about yourself and communication.

Questions: How are you becoming a holistic communicator? Which element do you need to spend some time sharpening?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great points Dan. Also paying attention to the holistic communication of the person you are talking with. I have noticed several times that my attention impact has been off by studying how I am talking with. Keep writing awesome content my friend;)

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post:) That’s a great point! Thank you for adding it.

  • I’m reminded of the famous communication law that 93% of communication is non-verbal. Just the fact that how you stand and project your voice is what determines whether or not you’re successful or not. I want to work on my body language to exude confidence.

    • I totally agree Paul! That’s a great goal. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  • Dan, I can’t tell you enough how much all of those factors matter in Leadership, especially Body Language to me. Its critically important to show that you are engaged in conversations and how you are presented. Its makes such a BIG difference in the Leaders persona. Thank you for sharing this..

    • Hey Lincoln I can relate – I would add facial expression to body language. I am not a natural smiler – This can cause confusion at times with what I am trying to get across.

      • Good addition Jon. I agree Facial expression is a big one.

    • I totally agree, body language is important.

  • Floyd

    It’s been my experience that if you’re sold as a leader about what you’re speaking on, the passion will automatically translate to these basic communication traits. It’s the person that is selling something they don’t believe in that have to rely on their acting skills… I never was that good an actor!

    • Great point Floyd! Passion does show through in a persons attitude. Thank you for sharing.

  • I need to work on voice tone – I am not sure if it is the preacher in me or not but I tend to be a bit loud at times. – This has caused more than once someone to take negatively something I said when that was not my intent.

    • Great self awareness Jon. It’s about finding the areas we can work on and then working on them. Thank you for reading!

    • I’ve actually witnessed this happening with other preachers, and I think you’re right on with the impact it can have. Softening this will have a big impact; I’ve witnessed this happening too.

      • Thanks Kari for the input. – I am clearly a work in progress :)

  • One thing I’m learning is to speak clearly and speak slower, annunciate every word.

  • Dan, eye contact has become a lost art with so many people. Just the simple act of glancing down at your phone while engaged in conversation can have a profoundly negative effect on your relationships.

    I personally struggle with voice tone. I am fairly soft spoken, and I don’t show a ton of emotion. I have to remind myself to speak up and with decisiveness.

    • You hit on a key one, Chris, and it reminded me of something. Where your eyes go says so much. A trick I taught my speech students was to look at the bridge of a person’s nose. This gives a focal point that is less intimidating than looking directly into someone’s eyes, but they can’t tell the difference. It just helps with learning to make eye contact and to not wander away. After a while, you become better able to make eye contact and not get distracted so easily.

      • Kari, that is helpful advice, especially when we feel a bit uncomfortable making direct eye contact for whatever reason.

    • I know, right. When someone does that with me, it makes me want to abruptly end the conversation (and sometimes I do). I also need to work on my voice tone, I’m also soft spoken and at times need to raise my voice tone so people can hear what I’m saying. Thank you for sharing.

      • Yes, we’re pretty similar it seems in our temperaments. I’ve recognized that people respect those leaders who make decisive decisions, even if they disagree sometimes. Thankfully, my job has helped me grow in this area because I have to make fast decisions directing a live TV show.

        • Yes, decisive decisions are usually welcomed.

  • Becoming a “holistic communicator” is a lifelong pursuit. I have gradually improved in these areas over the years, but I have so much more to learn. My selfishness gets in the way. All too often, I want communication to be about me. That’s where I need to change the most. I need to change the words I use and to show genuine interest in others when face-to-face. I’m better at it online because I have time to think first and to reread & edit what I say. I also need to work on tone, especially with my kids. So often, it’s not what I say that matters but how I say it. Not only that, but my boys need to learn the impact of tone too, and they’ll only learn it if I’m practicing it. I forwarded this post to my boys and hope they at least read it to get an idea of what they can work on to have better interactions with others. Good stuff, Dan!

    • I totally agree about it being a lifelong pursuit. My tone of voice is something I also need to work on. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  • Great post. All these are important, but nothing trumps “heart.” You can blow it in eye contact, body language, tone…but if you have heart and are authentically passionate about your ideas, you can still get the message across. Heart is the cake…everything else is the frosting. All that to say, frosting definitely makes the cake taste better…but the core is the cake.

    • I totally agree, Kent! “Heart” really does matter. Thank you for adding that.

  • I find that eye contact is significant for me. I have to conscientiously remind myself of it from time to time, but it really does make a huge difference when I practice it well.

    • Yes, eye contact does make a huge difference. Since thinking about and writing this post, It’s made me refocus on making sure I have eye contact with the people I talk with. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

      • Sometimes I can be pretty bad about it, when I distracted by something, like my phone, which I know I need to put down anyway.

        • I think a lot of people struggle with eye contact (at least that has been my observation). I’ve learned not to use my phone during a conversation.

  • I’ve never heard of BEST before, but it’s catchy. For me, becoming a better communicator is about practice. That’s how you better yourself. The more you communicate with others, the better you’ll become at it. But that just begs the question: how do you measure your progress. That probably depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re in sales, you’ll measure your sales numbers. If you’re trying to influences others, you’ll measure that and so on.

    • Great question about how to measure the progress. I think (like you said) it’s situational, depending on you want the desired outcome to be. I think if we work on becoming a better communicator we will begin seeing results across all areas of our life. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment:)