Although the responsibilities of those in leadership vary, there are a number of competencies that are common to all of them. In this series of six articles, we shall look at the competencies that are needed in a Chief Executive Officer, Board Chair and Board Member, Senior Manager and Pastor.
Competencies are aspects of a person that make one successful at what one does. They are a complex combination of underlying characteristics, being influenced by that person’s values and beliefs, motives, attitudes, personality traits, self-image and attitudes as well as skills and knowledge.
We can determine a person’s competencies by observing their behaviour. The more effectively and consistently they display the behaviours associated with the respective competencies, the better their leadership performance. A person’s competencies therefore, are a window through which we can glimpse the person’s capability.
This week we shall look at Communication.
Communication – Gives and receives information with attentiveness, clarity, understanding and perception.
Communication in this context includes speaking, listening, reading and writing, all of which are an everyday part of the responsibilities of a leader. Communication of one kind or another is at the heart of all human interactions and almost all decisions. A person’s non-verbal behaviour – body language, attitude – are also powerful communication tools, sending strong messages without the use of words.
Communication is the common denominator in all social skills and the person who communicates well demonstrates a combination of abilities.
Communication is enriched or restricted by the atmosphere between sender and recipient. An effective leader will strive to create a sense of openness, encouraging individuals to listen attentively to others or to speak out, knowing their opinions are valued. Effective communication builds on such a culture enabling good debate, bringing out the best in ideas and creativity and creating the ingredients for the most effective decision-making.
The ability to handle emotions is a second pre-requisite to all forms of effective communication. Aggression, frustration or the inability to stay calm and patient stifles good communication affecting both the speaker and hearer.
Effective listening is deceptively hard. Whether listening informally to an individual or gaining information in a group decision-making context, listening with understanding and perception requires patience, discipline and empathy.
When done well, it is one of the most simple and effective ways to increase awareness of the thoughts and feelings of others. Such insight is important for a leader. A good listener is attentive, asks perceptive questions and does not interrupt inappropriately.
In any organization, there is much information that has to be absorbed through the written word. To be effective, a leader needs to read such information with understanding in order to take action or to recall it appropriately and disseminate it concisely and accurately.
For a person in pastoral leadership, discipling others by building them up in faith through a deepened understanding of God is supremely important. Whether written or spoken, such communication needs to speak to both heart and mind, bringing the message to life, capturing and holding attention and interest. It needs to be persuasive, clear and concise. It needs to be relevant to the recipient by speaking to their experience.
The ability to communicate with relevance and appropriate illustration is helped by reading from a breadth of material, questioning and analysing information in order to increase knowledge and understanding.
An effective communicator uses logic rather than a collection of random, disconnected thoughts. Personal experience helps to “connect” with the recipient, bringing warmth and a “human face”. The message is further enhanced by insight and imagination, openness, humour and honesty. In this way the deepest spiritual truths and the most complex information can be communicated effectively with understanding and clarity.
Les Stahlke, President/CEO