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Leadership Communication Styles: Is Your Style Making the Right Impact?

When it comes to leadership communication styles, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’.

In fact, many experienced leaders switch communication styles depending on the situation, environment or decision that must be made. 

But this takes understanding and practice. 

Whether you already know your leadership communication style and want to learn how to develop it, or you want to find out what styles are out there to help you react and respond effectively with your team, we've got it all here.

Person using their leadership communication styles to lead their team

What is a Leadership Communication Style?

A leadership communication style is what defines certain behaviour, reactions or responses a person uses when faced with a specific situation - usually when interacting with others or making a decision. A "style" can be used in any situation, but some styles work better in certain situations than others. 

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How Can Leadership Communication Styles Impact Everyday Interactions?

"The most important skill/trait of a good leader is the ability to communicate effectively. Flexibility, self-awareness and humility comes after." - HubSpot

Whether you use a specific leadership style subconsciously or not, the style you use in a certain situation has the opportunity to inspire, inform, teach or even direct your team.

If you know what leadership communication style you use the most already, try to think about whether you have been considering what other people in those specific situations are looking for from you. This will help you understand if your leadership style is making the right impact.

Let's get into each style and when they are best used, typical phrases a leader using that style might use and how to develop each specific style.

7 Leadership Communication Styles and What They Mean

  1. Coaching
  2. Listening
  3. Teaching
  4. Directing
  5. Motivating
  6. Advising
  7. Delegation

Coaching Leadership Communication Style

As the name suggests, the coaching leadership style matches the same techniques and communication as a sports coach or teacher. A coaching leadership style is all about motivating and showing others they can reach their goals, what support is available to them and how they can meet their goals on their own.

When to use a coaching communication style:

Often, those who use a coaching communication style are found to give advice on the best route to take or offer support to those who need it.

Although coaching can be known as taking the “long route” to reach a goal, it can be one of the most effective ways to take into account various perspectives and needs. Just don’t choose a coaching style if you need to make a quick decision!

Use a coaching communication style when:

  • Employees need support or motivation
  • There’s a good amount of time to achieve the desired goal
  • Your advice is required to take the next steps
  • You visually see that employees are struggling on a task and you estimate it’s the best way to handle a situation

Typical phrases used by this communication style:

  • What seems to be working?
  • I understand your view but let’s look at it from another angle…
  • Who can you consult about this?
  • Let’s overcome this together…

How to Develop Your Coaching Communication Style

Whether you feel you’ve got the listening communication style mastered, or you want to develop it further, take a look at our upcoming Effective Coaching and Mentoring course to learn how to build rapport and relationships through effective tools and techniques.

Listening Leadership Communication Style

Listening to understand, not just reply is a key skill for any leader. It’s also one of the key pillars in communication, even if you manage a small or extra-large team.

The listening communication style is easy to spot. Managers with this style tend to be genuinely and actively listening to what’s happening across the organisation and how this could impact their team. Listeners also tend to ask for feedback more regularly, check in on their employees and open up decisions to the wider team to let everyone’s voice be heard.

When to use a listening communication style:

Any listening communication style is essential when building interpersonal or professional relationships and processing critical information.

But if you want to get specific, the listening communication style often sits between logical and emotional – depending on the situation. Some situations call for informational listening, critical listening or sympathetic listening, and knowing when to use which one can improve your interpersonal communication massively.

Listening communication is best used when:

  • Employees come to you with a problem
  • Conducting personal or one-to-one meetings
  • Trying to understand or resolve workplace conflict
  • An employee is giving you feedback on your leadership

Typical Phrases Used by this Communication Style

  • I’m listening…
  • Please, tell me more…
  • Could you explain the issue, please?
  • Let me see if I understood you correctly…
  • Could you give me more details on this, please?

How to Develop Your Listening Communication Style

Leadership communication styles are all about adaptability so check out the rest of the styles listed to understand what other styles are out there. You never know, there might even be a more effective one that suits you.

Looking for tips, techniques and expert advice on leadership in the public sector? Download your free copy of our Leadership Skills Handbook to get started.

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Teaching Communication Style

If you’re always on the lookout to share your expert knowledge, emphasise employee growth or help an employee find the best way to improve their skills, the teaching communication style is your favourite.

More often than not, strong leaders usually make for great teachers. This communication style won’t be needed every day, but it can act as an essential part of boosting employee performance or providing strong reasoning behind why new skills should be developed.

When to use a teaching communication style:

Often, those who use the teaching communication style have the ability to keep those listening engaged, adapt to different situations with ease or share best practices that are actually beneficial to the listener and their goal. There are three key stages behind the teaching communication style:

  1. Laying out the foundations
  2. Outlining key steps to follow to reach the desired goal
  3. Explaining the benefits or importance

Teaching communication is best used when:

  • Explaining a reason or the benefits of a decision
  • Helping an employee understand how something works
  • Advising on the next steps that need to be taken
  • You feel sharing your wisdom would aid employee progress

Typical phrases used by this communication style

  • If you’re struggling, come to see me…
  • What can we learn from this?
  • Let’s start with this…
  • Why don’t we work on this from the beginning?

How to Develop Your Teaching Communication Style

Learn more about this communication style and the types of internal communication you should be doing in your organisation to ensure your team is in the loop. And if you want to go that extra mile for yourself or your team, browse our upcoming Leadership courses to give yourself the best chance of success as a leader.

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Directing Communication Style

3, 2, 1 action! 📢

Directing communication style focuses on the exact steps needed to progress on a task or reach a goal. Those who use this style enjoy giving instructions, but this style should not be confused with giving orders – it’s all in the way you deliver!

Often, those who can see the bigger picture when problem-solving, deal with stressful situations in a logical way or give value to other perspectives have a directing communication style by trying to aid the achievement of goals.

When to use a directing communication style:

As this communication style is often project-oriented, there are only a handful of times when this style is best used. For example:

  • If you’re in a time-constrained situation
  • To ensure projects remain on the right track
  • Helping onboard new employees with their tasks
  • To act as motivation for employees to complete potentially mundane tasks

Typical phrases used by this communication style

  • You should try this…
  • Let’s change it to…
  • Let’s give this a go
  • Could you do this by Friday?
  • …can you take over this, please?

How to Develop Your Communication Style

Being assertive and using a directing communication style go hand in hand. Learn more about using your communication style and how to be more effectively assertive in the workplace here. Or if you want to use your voice to make more impact, listen to our expert trainer, Sandie, talk about her tips for speaking with impact:

Motivating Communication Style

You can do it!🙌

Motivating communication is all about stimulating the engagement of your listener – engagement can be in the form of focus or even involvement in a project that you’re committed to. This style is key to any leader or managerial role as your employees may look for casual encouragement or praise for doing a good job from time to time.

Everyone is motivated by different methods, for example, some will respond well to motivational quotes, while others will benefit from positive reinforcement through an appreciation of their skills or effort.

Those who use the motivating communication style will often have a clear vision and understanding of how best to support their team and know how to inspire or reward.

When to use a motivating communication style:

Whether your employees are going through a hard time or you want to offer more encouragement as you work toward the same goal, motivating communication is best used when:

  • An employee is visibly struggling with a task or new job requirements
  • Your team needs a boost of morale
  • Your organisation is going through times of uncertainty
  • A complex task is due soon

Typical phrases used by this communication style

  • I appreciate your work on this
  • That’s a great idea
  • You’re on the right path, tell me your next steps…
  • I believe you can do this
  • Let’s work together on this

How to Develop Your Motivating Communication Style

Whether you feel you’ve got the motivating communication style mastered, or you want to develop it further, take a look at our upcoming Developing a Positive Team Culture course to learn how to use effective persuasive communication and overcome obstacles using the right techniques and communication.

Advising Communication Style

Tackling new challenges is your speciality.

As a leader or manager, you might spend a large majority of your time advising your team as an expert in your field. Often, those who use an advising communication style will aim to be a positive role model and have a genuine interest in providing the best advice for a specific situation while being open to everyone’s opinion.

When to use an advising communication style:

Someone who uses an advising communication style usually has the role of helping employees through any issues that could be impacting their work and understanding how to move forward.

It is worth noting that advising should be used with caution. While it’s helpful to be there for others, be careful not to give too much advice, as this can cause more confusion than good. An advising communication style should be used when:

  • Someone needs clarification on a task or situation
  • Clearing up conflict or misconceptions
  • Offering an alternative view
  • Answering questions

Typical phrases used by this communication style

  • I would advise…
  • Why not try this?
  • In my experience…
  • Would you like to hear my thoughts?
  • I can recommend…

How to Develop Your Communication Style

A strong communication style and the ability to adapt between different ones rely on your core verbal communication skills. Feel like yours need a refresh? Browse our upcoming verbal communication courses.

Delegation Communication Style

Delegators are people who transfer responsibility or work to other employees. In terms of communication, delegation is rather hands-off as this is a great way to give employees greater autonomy over a project – especially if they know the importance of the goal.

The delegation communication style can even be compared to the next level above a directing communication style. It’s worth noting that delegating communication styles can work great on mature and highly motivated teams, but it might not be suitable for a brand-new team who have a different level of ability or need for direction.

When to use a delegation communication style:

A delegation communication style is a great way to build self-driven employees and even offers them the chance to learn core leadership skills themselves. This type of communication style should be used when:

  • You want to show you trust your employees
  • An employee needs to learn how to do a specific task
  • Your schedule is full or there’s a job that no longer fits under your job description
  • Giving feedback
  • Trying to overcome an issue involving several teams or members of staff

Typical phrases used by this communication style

  • Who would like to…?
  • Let’s split into smaller teams…
  • Could you take charge of…
  • I would appreciate your thoughts on…
  • You’re responsible for…

How to Develop Your Leadership Style and Skills 

Leadership communication styles and skills are all about adaptability, even if you're an experienced leader. View our upcoming Leadership, Management and Strategy courses to ensure you're prepared for anything.

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Chloe Martin
Content Editor

2+ years in SEO and content marketing. Striving to help public sector professionals develop their skills and learn something new through high-quality content.