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What’s Your Leadership Communication Style? - HRDQ

What’s Your Leadership Communication Style?

Having good communication skills is essential to be an effective leader. Effective communication helps employees understand what is expected of them, fosters stronger relationships, and creates an environment where people feel valued and more engaged. Likewise, effective communication eliminates distractions that can cause teams to be unproductive, hostile, and closed off. While everyone may feel proficient in their communication skills, they don’t recognize the effects their communication style has on the team. This is why it's important for leaders to be aware of their preferred leadership communication style.

By understanding your unique strengths and weaknesses in communication, you can significantly improve the way you manage your team. In this post, we’ll explore various leadership communication styles, along with their potential advantages and disadvantages.

If you want to know exactly what your leadership communication style is, try the What's My Communication Style assessment from HRDQ. This assessment will provide you with everything you need to know to start cultivating your team’s communication skills!

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Motivating Communication Style

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Do you often find yourself boosting team morale through your speech? Are you energetic and charismatic when you speak? Can you inspire others to produce their best work through a meaningful conversation? If so, then you likely embody the motivating leadership communication style.

This style of communication is characterized by moving people to action through intentional, enthusiastic dictation. Leaders who possess this style are persuasive and good storytellers. They generate enthusiasm and use motivational speech, always seeming to know exactly what to say to hype up their team and provide the boost they need to get to work.

This style works best in urgent situations when your team needs to come together quickly to complete a task. The downside of motivational communication is that it can come across as patronizing when not applied appropriately. “Cheering” your team on in less stressful situations can give the impression that you’re out of touch rather than understanding the problem at hand. Instead, more subtle, positive reinforcement may work better when the stakes aren’t high. 

Listening Communication Style

Those who genuinely value and seek out employee feedback, ideas, and thoughts are likely listening communicators. While active listening is involved in all styles of communication, what’s unique about this particular style is that employee expression is a top priority. Leaders who embody this style are also exceptionally great at reading between the lines – or listening to what employees are not saying – to identify unspoken challenges and frustrations.

Of course, those with the listening leadership communication style must remember that, as a superior, people are looking to you for words of wisdom and guidance. It’s imperative to determine when it is the time for listening and when it is the time for authoritative speech. You need to cultivate the ability to make decisive, assertive decisions and express these decisions that distinguish you as a superior while still incorporating employee feedback.

Teaching Communication Style

A woman writing on a whiteboard with two other female coworkers sitting at the table behind her

If you’re constantly seeking ways to share your expert knowledge to improve your team, you likely embody the teaching communication style. This style puts an emphasis on employee growth and provides team members with specific skills they can apply to their positions.

Effective teaching relies on three primary factors—explaining how something works, what steps need to be taken, and why the topic is beneficial to know. Many people forget to explain the why to their employees, which can cause confusion, distrust, and the feeling that they are micromanaging. When using this style of communication, it’s important to hit all three points in order to lead your team effectively.

Advising Communication Style

The advising leadership communication style is ultimately characterized by providing your team with valid solutions to problems. People often come to these leaders whenever they have a question, are faced with a challenge, or need clarity on a process. This is because they are trusted as the go-to person to fix any roadblock that’s presented to the team.

The primary drawback here is that teams often become complacent under advising communication styles. When teams have someone they can always turn to to solve any issue that arises, they may quit trying to come up with creative, unique solutions on their own. Cultivating creativity and innovation is an important aspect of effective leadership, so it’s important that advisors don’t allow their team to become too dependent on their skills. Teams need independence to continue to be productive employees and develop valuable critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.

Coaching Communication Style

Two men sitting at the head of a conference table while talking with other people

The coaching communication leadership style is most effective in low-pressure situations where quick decisions aren’t required. This communication type is a near-perfect blend of the teaching and advising communication styles. These kinds of leaders provide their employees with a foundation for success and offer alternative routes to achieving it – but ultimately, they let their employees take the lead and decide which path is right for them.

Coaching communication leaders offer words of support when they see fit. Then, after letting their employees navigate the route they want to take, they’ll only step in when the employee needs or asks for help. Coaching communication is all about showing people that they have the capacity to reach their goals on their own while making it clear that support and advice are available each step of the way when they do require it.

However, this explorative style does take time to develop. It’s impossible to quickly coach an individual to reach their maximum potential. When the pressure is on, these kinds of leaders must learn to take the reins and adopt a sense of urgency to motivate their team to complete the task at hand.

Directing Communication Style

Directing requires you to lay out the primary steps a team needs to take to complete a task. This is particularly useful in job fields that don’t require employees to come up with creative solutions, where they may complete the same tasks regularly. The directing communication style is great for clearly and concisely laying out expectations and processes and delegating, which helps to improve productivity.

However, there’s a fine line between directing a team and dictating a team. The way to avoid crossing this line is through your delivery. Be sure that you are not dishing out orders. Instead, try explaining the steps that need to be taken to succeed. You should also be sure not to glaze over employee questions and work on making time to listen to their feedback.

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Each type of communication has its pros and cons. Some work best in high-stress situations, while others work best in low-stress situations. Some communication styles nurture and guide the team along, while some require the team to put in more work and reach conclusions themselves. Each scenario, each team, and even each employee is going to need a different communication style at different times. While you may have one communication style that you gravitate toward and tend to use, it is possible to develop the skills to switch between styles as needed.

As you come to understand the different communication styles, including your personal communication style, to meet the needs of your team and employees, you will also be developing the skills that make you an effective leader. The best leaders know what their teams need in each situation and how to adapt their style to encourage and direct.

The first step in improving your communication skills is knowing what your leadership communication style is. HRDQ offers the assessment, What’s My Communication Style, to help you pinpoint your style.

What’s My Communication Style is a practical and easy-to-use DISC-based personality assessment. The assessment takes about 10 minutes to complete, and at the end, the participant is presented with a breakdown of what communication style they relate to most from one of four options: direct, spirited, considerate, or systematic. These styles are similar to the communication styles presented in this post, and understanding and honing these styles will help you increase your emotional intelligence, adaptability, and leadership skills, and it will help you build trust and collaboration among your team.

If you’d like to further cultivate your skills as a successful manager, explore the full HRDQ Leadership Collection today. It’s filled with training for leadership workshops, activities, assessments, games, and more to help you guide your team better than ever before. Start improving today!

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.