Effective Communication – Leadership’s Linchpin

Effective-Communication-Leadership's-Linchpin-Martina-McGowanThe ability to find success in our own personal lives, or in our businesses is rarely dependent on our own skill alone. Maintaining the proper attitude and effective communication are also important contributing aspects of our roles as leaders. Contrary to the current popular belief, effective communication is not merely a matter of how well we can speak in front of an audience, or how well we can write documents, articles or blog posts. Effective and superior communication can only be adequately determined in how well people have understood us and what we are attempting to express.

Communication is an important foundational element of your authority and influence as a leader.  Many businesses and organizations fail to survive because of poor or substandard communication between business decision-makers and the people who have to implement the tasks. Poor or ineffective communication can be a major contributor to employee burn-out, unnecessary and unwarranted elevated stress levels, dissatisfaction and disengagement.

To achieve effective communication, it is important to focus on this essential aspect of how we decide to lead. For many leaders this will entail a change in both attitude and perspective.  It is important that, as leaders of other people and of organizations, that we work to maintain openness to actively engaging  colleagues, employees and yes, customers.

Businesses are built on trust. And, trust is built on relationships. Communication is an important linchpin of relationship building.  The most important relationship in your life is your relationship with our inner self. Consequently, communication with you inner self should be a high priority. I know, it sounds hokey and touchy-feely; but the way in which you communicate with your inner self is very much a determinant of how you communicate with others.

If you spend most of your time doubting your own capabilities, and putting yourself down, it is all but inconceivable that you will be able to mount a positive or even celebratory response to the activities of the people around you. Positive thinking, positive affirmations and positive reinforcement would help you deal with life’s difficulties better. Henry Ford was right when he said,

” If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford Tweet this!

If you believe something, then those beliefs can either become limiting or expansive in terms of what you decide to pursue, and how you elect to do it. Having a positive inner dialogue will launch you into a more positive and supportive communication style with others.

One example of maintaining effective communication is giving appropriate, useful and practical feedback or constructive criticisms to your teammates.  You must first develop an internal successful feedback pattern for yourself.  This will help you give and receive criticisms more openly.

Effective communication is important to us and to the people we serve.

• Effective problem solving.  When you are able to communicate to your employees and co-workers clearly and successfully about real issues and problems, this can lead to a deeper understanding of problems. A deeper understanding will lead everyone to a quicker and more effective problem solution.

• Effective leadership.  For you, as a leader to be able to set the appropriate tone, get people to progress in a suitable and desired direction, and to influence the team or the organization, you must be able to develop a healthy style of communication with them.  As we have already discussed, positive feedback is important. But, so is criticism. Criticisms should be given as a form of positive, helpful useable suggestion and should serve primarily as support rather than chastisement.

• Effective planning.  Planning involves completely understanding the mission, the vision, and the goal of the individual, the department or the organization.  Planning should must directed by the guiding principles of the group. However, we all know that everyone approaches things differently. So it becomes important to properly communicate with each team member so that all of the energy and ideas can be channeled to create and pull together an effective and executable plan.

• Effective organizational improvement.  Communicating well as a leader is not only about your own personal and professional development and growth.  There should also be some noticeable improvement in the personal and professional paths of the people you lead. And, this can have significant effects on the improvement of your whole organization.

As you work to lead and develop yourselves and your colleagues, you will learn sooner or later that your success often depends on being able to interact effectively with other people. Learning good communication skills, and applying them to your inner dialog can only enhance your external dialog and interaction. Effective, on-point, erudite communication can make or break your leadership, your leadership style and your business.

What other ways can effective communication help an organization? Please share your thoughts and ideas below.

About Martina McGowan

Martina G. McGowan, MD is a physician and life coach. She has been teaching, mentoring, supporting and coaching people for over 30 years to transform their lives; some physically, many mentally. She is the coach’s coach.

Connect with Martina McGowan


  1. Hi Martina ~ playing catch up with Blogathon posts so apologies for that. I really liked the post for three reasons: one, the part about talking and listening to yourself, which is critical to effective reflection … and self-learning; two, about active listening, which goes way beyond hearing other people’s words, whilst waiting for your chance to speak; it embodies real attentiveness and focus on the individual, hearing what they are saying, interpreting it and replaying it … and then acting upon your conclusions; and, three; the critical role of external feedback ~ I love feedback ~ both giving and receiving ~ and find it is the mainstay of how I grow and develop as a person and as a leader and consultant.

    Thank you for sharing you thoughts!

    Kind regards


    • Thank you John.

      Yes we should all thrive in the face of feedback, our own to ourselves, ours to other people, and other people to us. Too many people view feedback in only a negative construct. Feedback should provide us with valuable information about what is working well and what is not.

      Thanks for commenting and adding to the conversation.

  2. Your point that communication with others is a reflection of our internal conversation is one that is so important yet rarely talked about when it comes to communication. Bravo for shining a spotlight on it here! Communication is never just a function of the words chosen, but also the context in which that communication is delivered. That includes the context created by the communicators relationship with themselves.

    • Thanks, Susan.

      Yes, we live in a context whether we choose to call it that or not. And, yes, what we send out into the world is a clear reflection of what’s going on inside of us, things we have dealt with, and those we have not, much more than they are a reflection of the other person.

      This is an important aspect of being communications and not just talking. People send out, but also receive messages through their own individual lenses of life experiences, parenting, work experiences, etc. That it is why it is imperative that the leader, or any speaker for that matter, check to see if what has been understood is what they intended to communicate.

      Thanks for commenting.


  3. Boil it down and Stephen Covey’s 5th habit still applies: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

  4. Hi Martina,

    I really like this post. Frequently people think saying something to someone means that they’ve communicated. That’s only half of the process. The other half is making certain that the person received and understood what was said.

    My favorite sentence is this: “The most important relationship in your life is your relationship with our inner self.”

    Thanks a lot for the great article!

    All the best,

    • Thanks Susan. If we never investigate the understanding side of the equation, we cannot expect the results that we envision every time. More likely, we will get a combination of what we have said, what we think we said, and what other shave filled in with their own thoughts or agenda items.

      Thanks for commenting.

  5. Ali Paskun says:

    Great article, Martina! Leaders choose to share information and empower employees or hoard information to keep power for themselves. Their self-talk plays a big role in determining which choice they make.

    • Good points Ali. The choice seems to come down to who you think it important to empower, yourself alone, or the team. I’d vote for the teams strength and effective use of knowledge over my solo power every time. Thanks

  6. Great article Martina. 🙂 A very good contribution to this years blogathon.

    Have a great day! (and I will go talk to myself now)

  7. Hi Martina. Thank you for your great post regarding communication and the vital role it plays in effective leadership. My initial thoughts went to how many times we have seen (supposed) “leaders” fail in communication … and the devastating organizational outcomes that accompany that failure. Your writing about the “internal speak” influences the “external speak” also really captured my attention. Yes – how can we expect a person to be positive to others when they are not positive with themselves. Very thought provoking. Thank you for your contribution to the blogathon.

    • Thanks Susan. Yes, many leaders fail to adequately communicate what they hope the team will accomplish. But when failure strikes, it is not the team that has failed, but the leader. People cannot go where we want or do the things we wish, if we never tell the. Sort of like our children. They never know that we love them unless we say it periodically.

      And, yes, if our internal talk is all negative, we cannot hope to project positivity to others, and they will not continue to follow once they see through the façade.


  8. Martina, I love the focus you put on communication not just as an obligation — also as a conduit to success. It makes everything flow and prevents so many problems.

    Great communication elevates everything — leadership, teamwork, customer experience, relationships, personal growth, cultural awareness, negotiation, and the list goes on!

    Many thanks for spotlighting this great tool we all have!!!

    • Thanks, Kate. Yes, it is a tool that we all have access to, but often forget that we possess it, or we do not cultivate it. Well-said, yes, good and effective communication elevates everything.

  9. You hit it Martina! Communication is key in any relationship personal or business. Like you said it is more than being on stage and speaking. Communication is a 2 way street. If the person you are communicating to hasn’t received or fully perceived what you intend to share, communication has not happened.

    I would also add to your list that communication is key to vision casting. We need to make sure the vision of any organization is overly and clearly communicated.

    • Thank you Paul. Yes, casting a clear vision, a vision that is clear to everyone, is an important part of the process. You cannot hope to lead people to the goal if they don’t know what it is.
      Thanks for the addition.

  10. Hi Martina, I like the way you point out that how you communicate with yourself affects the way you communicate with others. Maybe we should focus on becoming better communicators but starting within. You hit the nail on the head, again.

    • You are right, Dan. All that we do, are, hope to become begins withy work on the “inner man” first. If we cannot lead or master ourselves, then it is unlikely that anyone else will accept us as their leader either.
      Thanks for the comment.

  11. This is great. I led a Quality Improvement group yesterday, I tend to lead more on the touchy-feely side. I was showing a motivational DVD on Excellence. At the end I asked for feedback- Their response was a good critique of my leadership style- the said “Yes, we get all of the ra ra stuff, but what are we supposed to do?” It was a good reminder for me, after encourage must come the expectations in roles. Balance in all!

    • Thanks, Susan. Yes, we must define, as well as model, what we expect from people. And using your example, often we just have to say it in plain language.
      It is also excellent that you asked for, accepted and are willing to modify based on the feedback you got from the group. Thanks for the comments and the share.

  12. Hello Martina,

    I can only fully agree with you. Effective communication, also with our inner self, is the lubricant which ensures that the engine continues to run smoothly. And as Christina Haxton says: “You can judge the quality of your communication by the response you get”

    Kind regards,


    • Thanks Joan, I was not familiar with that quote. I will have to add it to my repertoire. I also like the lubricant-engine metaphor. Yes, good communication keeps us moving in the right direction. Poor communication only breeds chaos and confusion, with few good goals being accomplished.
      Thank you

  13. In every thing a leader says and does it communicates a message – even their messages to themselves. So glad that you raised the topic of communication as I see it as the key ingredient to building relationships – just as you have said if you want people to know, like and trust you, you have to be able to connect, engage and build rapport with them through your communication.

    • Yes Heidi. It is not only in our speech, but in every action. It is important that leaders realize this. Someone is always watching what you do. And, it is not always the broad strokes that catch their eye. Often they see the little things that hinge on our true3 integrity and true feelings about a situation or person. We must be self-aware because people are always modeling us and following our lead.

      • That’s exactly what I was thinking Martina – it is often in the quiet, small things we do that people notice. How congruently we behave and be when we think no one is watching is the true character and mark of a leader.

  14. Hi Martina

    Great to see you here and the article is up to the bar you set yourself, as ever. I was reflecting the other day on the profound meaning in the Johari Window model, sometimes trivialised by trainers in my experience. But to my mind, growth comes via widening the open pane and beginning to explore the unknown.

    And that comes from feedback, as you suggest, on the one hand. And self-disclosure on the other, on the basis that what you give is what you get. It strikes me that healthy inner dialogue in my life is often after I have engaged in some element of self disclosure, may be but not exclusively with a coach. Putting it out there in terms of sharing your thoughts, plus the asking forand giving of feedback, makes a powerful combination.

    Thanks for reminding me and for contributing to this excellent venture!

    Warmest wishes


    • Well-said, David and thanks for the compliment.

      Our inner dialog colors and is colored by our experiences. And, yes, often some self-disclosure will open a door or window that we thought we had nailed shut in the past. This gives us an opportunity to explore it again in a new light, and probably in a new and healthier way with ourselves. “Putting it out there” makes it all real again and gives you a chance to talk it through with yourself and with others.

      Thanks, David.

  15. Martina! I loved so many things about this article! I’ve seen more leaders than I care to count that used a lot of big, impressive words in their written and oral communication. In fact, they used so many that instead of giving me the impression that they are smart and knowledgeable, I began to think that they were arrogant and disconnected from people. Strong communication builds connection and inspires action, when it’s ineffective, it can lead to disengagement or worse, over time, lost talent.

    Also appreciate the self-communication piece. The messages that we send ourselves matter! Thanks for bringing that into the mix here. It’s not only what we say to others that matters, but what we tell ourselves about what’s possible.

    Great post, Martina!

    • Thanks, Alli. I too have seen many leaders who end up sabotaging their message by their use of “high” vocabulary. And yes, it does anything but add to their credibility. If people can’t understand the message, then (as Peter Drucker says), then you haven’t communicated. And, if you have not communicated, you have wasted precious time in building connection and rapport with the people you are charged to lead. Time and opportunity you may not regain.

      Thank you.


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