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Leadership Requires Communication Skills

People can't communicate with each other. Communication can take many forms. This way someone can communicate verbally but also non-verbally; aware and unaware; oral and written.

Many (types of) communication skills can be distinguished. One can think of the level at which someone is communicative or think of written, oral and non-verbal communication skills. But also communication skills from human to human or from human to groups of people and also conscious and unconscious use of these skills. A person can't communicate.

Levels of communication skills

The business, expressive, relational and appealing levels can be distinguished here. Most people are usually only aware of the business level. But the other three levels often have the most effect on communication.

Oral communication skills

There are quite a few opportunities to demonstrate the oral communication skills. Think for example of having a conversation, giving a presentation, leading or participating in a meeting.

Written communication skills

Someone will often have to communicate in writing. When writing a note, letter, essay, report or book, an author needs those skills. In summary, this's called the written expression skills.

Non-verbal communication skills

A skill in this area involves listening well. But also the body language: the attitude; the gestures; the use of eyes, eyebrows and hands is one of the non-verbal communication skills.

And then...

Communication skills can be used by someone to communicate with a person. But someone can also communicate with large, sometimes even anonymous groups of people. Because a person can't communicate, the skills in that area aren't always used consciously.

Levels of communication

According to Schultz van Thun, someone always communicates at multiple levels at the same time. In addition to the 'what' of communication, there's also a 'how'. He distinguishes four levels or aspects of communication: the business, the expressive, the relational and the appealing.

Usually someone is only aware of one level: the business level. However, the other levels have a major influence on the effect of communication.

The business level

This concerns the content of the message, the information that's conveyed. That information refers to facts, opinions, phenomena and events. The business level is:

- the most visible part of the communication
- the most conscious part of the communication
- the 'what' of communication
- questions: structure, comprehensibility, attractiveness.

The expressive level

This's the level of communication at which the sender shows something of himself, reveals something of himself. This can be very direct, for example expressing an opinion or expressing a feeling. It can also be more subtle, indirect, such as the enthusiasm or ineptness with which someone brings something. The expressive level is:

- the central level for poems, diaries, statements and confessions
- after content often the most visible aspect of communication
- difficult to control by the transmitter
- questions: (in) certainty, agree / disagree, involvement.

The relational level

At this level of communication, something becomes clear from the way the sender and receiver see each other. At this level it's about the relationship between transmitter and receiver. It's created at this level and it's maintained, modified, in short influenced at this level. The relational level is:

- the central level in performance or appraisal interviews, in conflicts and in bad news interviews
- often extremely subtle: sent and perceived unconsciously
- of enormous influence on the intention and effect of the communication
- questions: status, power, appreciation.

The appealing level

This's the level of communication at which the purpose of the communication must ultimately be achieved. It's all about influence and effect. For example, where someone in an argument convinces the other of the validity of a position and also where someone gets motivated by the other person to do it (differently). The appealing level is:

- the central level of, for example, an instruction
- sometimes deliberately hidden in the business aspect
- by consciously ignoring the recipient (East Indian deafness)
- questions: motivating, convincing, influencing.

Influence styles

People can try to influence each other in different ways. Power or authority is indispensable for the effective exercise of influence. The person who wants to exercise influence over another must be recognized as influential by that other person.

When influencing each other, people consciously or unconsciously use a (mix) of four basic styles. These styles differ in direction: more or less two-way traffic and content: more or less rational or emotional.

1. Argue

When influencing, the influencer uses facts and arguments for his own point of view. The influencer puts forward ideas, makes suggestions, makes recommendations and asks questions that indicate a point of view.

Source of influence

- Logic
- Reasonableness
- Fact
- (Scientifically) demonstrable

Characteristic behavior

- Provide logical arguments
- Introduce counter arguments
- Provide evidence
- Make proposals
- Make suggestions and recommendations

Effectively through

- Have knowledge
- Briefly and succinctly formulate
- Arranging arguments in order of importance
- Don't use too many arguments at once
- Make inviting proposals


- Illogical or incorrect arguments
- Weak arguments
- Make unattractive proposals
- Wrap personal interests in arguments

Usable as

- Expertise is available and respected
- The subject can be tested against facts and data
- The other doesn't yet have an opinion on the subject
- There's little personal interest in the case

Not usable if

- The other is angry or emotional
- The relationship is "colored"
- The other has a strong opinion about the subject
- Personal interests play a strong role

2. Listen actively

This style consists of asking for dissent, encouraging and asking for clarifications; responding to other people's questions and points of view. Summarizing regularly and expressing the feelings of the other are also part of this style.

Source of influence

- Trust in the other person's thoughts and ideas
- Acknowledge the other person's thoughts and ideas

Characteristic behavior

- Ask questions (preferably "open": who, what, when, why, where, how, etc.)
- Ask for dissenting opinions
- Addressing / showing understanding for views and ideas
- To summarise
- Expressing feelings of the other
- Being open about uncertainties, uncertainties, doubts or feelings
- Ask for help

Effectively through

- Real interest
- Give the other person the opportunity to think out loud
- Clarify the other person's ideas
- Let the other person draw conclusions themselves


- Use it as a "trick" / don't mean it
- Pack your own opinion into questions
- Ask suggestive questions
- Misrepresenting feelings (projection)

Usable as

- It's important to know the ideas, opinions or feelings of others
- The other must participate in something
- There's sufficient room for participation
- The other is angry or emotional

Not usable if

- The situation requires prompt action
- The other has no business knowledge
- The other wants to know where he / she stands

3. Standardize

By setting standards and criteria and by indicating the associated conditions, the influencer makes clear what he or she expects from the other.

Source of influence

- (Personal) standards
- To wish
- Requirements
- Reward
- Punishment

Characteristic behavior

- Establish standards
- Make criteria / conditions / expectations clear
- To make demands
- Express appreciation
- Express disapproval
- Make positive or negative consequences of someone's behavior clear (tangible or intangible)

Effectively through

- Being clear about your own standards and wishes
- Negotiating requirements
- Using positive judgments and "rewards"
- Be personally approachable


- Using too many negative judgments and sanctions
- Use as unreasonably experienced standards and judgments

Usable as

- There's a personal interest in the situation
- Expectations and conditions must be clear
- There's the option of actually applying sanctions
- The other person needs clarity more than independence
- The situation calls for a quick decision

Not usable if

- The other has a strong need for independence
- The other must be motivated
- There are no penalty or reward options

4. Enthusiastic lubrication

The influencer who uses this style paints a picture of the possible results and expresses 'exciting' possibilities in colorful language.

Source of influence

- Vision
- Future vision
- Ideal wishes / desires (possibly hidden)
- Appearance.

Characteristic behavior

- Sketch a result
- Assessing the other party's wishes and interests (or their options in your plan)
- Own faith and energy


- Building castles in the air
- Misjudging other people's wishes and / or possibilities
- Don't believe in it yourself

Usable as

- It's important to motivate others
- People have similar interests and / or goals
- There's trust in the relationship
- Fear and hope play a role in the situation
- Generating energy is more important than specific actions

Not usable if

- The relationship is broken
- The situation requires concrete decisions
- One feels threatened

Listen, summarize, keep asking

Whoever works together must communicate. Remember that your perception isn't the truth. So be open. If you want to communicate well, you need two basic skills: listening and asking questions. Don't forget that a lot is also spoken non-verbally.

Questions and listening: essential parts of good communication.

Listen actively

- Show that you're following the other, give short non-verbal responses
- Now and then summarize what the other person is saying
- Have the other person correct your interpretation
- Don't formulate an answer while the other person is still talking
- Listen with full attention and be open.

Asking questions

- Ask open questions to get as much information as possible
- Ask closed questions to get exact information
- Don't ask guiding questions so that there are no suggestive answers
- Keep asking and don't settle for a short answer.

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