This year has provided so many topsy-turvy examples of leadership, encapsulated by the unexpected rise of President-Elect Trump, who prevailed despite upending every norm and expectation for a presidential candidate. We shall see whether Trump’s unconventional approach to campaigning translates to an effective tenure as president.

For the rest of us who are trying to live leadership in our careers and communities, the pre-inaugural period is a good time to go back to the fundamentals, starting with communication.


At the roots of effective leadership are four key traits:

  • The ability to see what truly needs to be addressed
  • The wisdom to understand and discern the underlying forces at play
  • The courage to take action to address the core issues
  • The insight to lead from a connection to one’s authentic self

The capacity to communicate effectively is essential to a leader’s ability to effectively express these traits. Communication, something we do every day, only seems simple. Few people mindfully cultivate this skill as a life-long pursuit. Consider that when speaking, people remember less than 10 percent of the actual words one uses. Instead, people absorb meaning from the way people use they body language and the quality of their voice. Our non-verbal communication is far more powerful than most people realize and yet it is often not the focus when we are “saying” something.

Who we are comes through, sometimes in spite of the words we may be using. It was often said of Trump that while the press took him “literally but not seriously,” his supporters took him “seriously, but not literally.” They forgave his many regrettable departures from the facts because they knew where he wanted to go. There is a lesson here, even for Trump opponents. Leadership isn’t just about words, it’s about communication that goes beyond mere words. Regardless of whether you are running for president or just seeking to expand your influence as an employee, improving one’s verbal and non-verbal communication is the key to establishing oneself as a genuine leader.

Building communication effectiveness requires focus on these seven areas:

  • Understanding your authentic self and communicating who you are with clarity and confidence
  • Knowing what you want to contribute and creating your personal narrative
  • Aligning your leadership with your actions by leading with your strengths
  • Cultivating the three core leadership skills of communication, conscious choice and conflict resolution
  • Leading in teams to enable talent to be at their best and bring it out in others by creating positive and productive alliances
  • Creating real world results by aligning people to the impact they want to have so they are able to face change and challenge through collaboration and innovation
  • Reflecting and refocusing to move onto the next peak in alignment with each person’s leadership though giving and receiving sound feedback

Almost every leadership breakdown can be traced back to a failure of communication. Organizations are well served by investing in these essential skills for their employees. By developing employees’ ability to communicate as a leader, organizations bolster individual leadership skills while strengthening their teams’ ability to create positive outcomes. It is a winning strategy for individuals and organizations alike.