4 Traits of Good Communication Often Ignored by Bad Leaders
And how good leaders communicate better
Good leaders know that good communication is key to a successful organization. They see communication as invaluable for creating a good workplace culture.
Perhaps the greatest flaw of bad leaders is bad communication. Bad communication de-motivates employees and halts productivity. Good leaders seek to communicate well first and foremost because they care about the people under them. Below are four ways that good leaders communicate as well as a discussion of how bad leaders fail in those areas.
Good leaders communicate transparently, but only to the point of necessity. Bad leaders communicate either too transparently or not transparently enough. A bad leader will dance around the truth and not communicate anything worthwhile. Bad leaders can also be too transparent. These bad leaders can be gossipy or speculative in ways that are unprofessional. Sometimes leaders can be too transparent in some cases and too withholding in others. I worked for a boss who was too transparent when he was communicating good news. With good news, he would overshare beyond what he should have, given the situations. But when it came to bad news, he would beat around the bush for hours. He would never come out and say what he needed to say. Sometimes bad leaders are withholding information because they like the power of holding that information. Holding information back as a show of power is a mark of a bad leader.
A good leader knows how much information they can share in each situation. They withhold information when it is necessary, such as when confidentiality is important. They avoid speculating and over-promising. But they also don’t withhold information just to withhold it. A good leader is not obsessed with building power and therefore they don’t use information as a tool of power.
Good leaders communicate with compassion. Bad leaders communicate with no compassion. When bad leaders communicate, they do not take the feelings of others into consideration. Bad leaders communicate in a way that is cold and distant. The root of this is those bad leaders don’t actually care about anyone other than themselves and their own power. Along with this, bad leaders will never say, “I’m sorry.” They won’t say they are sorry for something they did, they won’t even say they are sorry that a situation is bad. A bad leader never apologizes.
On the other hand, a good leader cares about people and takes others’ feelings into account. This shows itself most when communicating bad news. A good leader will communicate bad news gently and with great compassion. A good leader acknowledges when a situation is bad. Most importantly, a good leader communicates bad news in a way where employees leave the conversation knowing the leader cares about them.
A good leader is helpful and answers questions and concerns. A bad leader ignores questions or dances around them. This goes with the transparency issue above. A bad leader will withhold information for their own purposes. Even when you could be transparent and give answers, they will not, especially when those answers would undermine their power. A bad leader is far from helpful. In many cases, a bad leader will ignore questions or even attack question askers.
A good leader welcomes questions and answers each one, even if that answer is, “I’m sorry, I am unable to answer that question due to confidentiality.” A good leader wants more information available rather than less. A good leader wants to foster understanding when decisions are made. A good leader will help their employees understand through questions and answers. A good leader has nothing to hide about how a decision is made and why.
Above all, good leaders seek to communicate with clarity. Bad leaders do not seek clarity, because many times, a bad leader makes decisions that would not pass scrutiny. Ironically, bad leaders may use more words to communicate decisions. Long, rambling written statements or speeches are the norm for a bad leader. A bad leader will speak the most in a conversation with someone seeking clarity, but their words do not bring clarity. With a bad leader, it is often necessary to read between the lines, as what is not said is often more important than what is said.
A good leader will communicate clearly in as few words as possible because they know that many words often bring more fog than clarity. A good leader is direct. Listening is also a sign of good communication. A good communicator listens to concerns rather than monopolizing the conversation so they can better address those concerns. Good communicators and leaders know that face-to-face conversation is usually the best way to communicate, especially when communicating bad news. A good leader knows what medium of communication is appropriate. For massive changes or bad news, face-to-face is best. For small, everyday details, email is best. Good leaders choose the proper medium so that clarity can be maximized.