Five Essential Communication Skills That Leaders Must Grasp

Joel Landau
4 min readApr 21, 2023


The American workplace has been changed by the pandemic, dramatically and permanently. Remote work, first undertaken for safety reasons, is now an everyday reality. While it has provided flexibility and freedom for the workforce, it has presented challenges to leaders.

How can those atop the org chart engage employees who are not in the same building, and in some cases not even in the same zipcode? McKinsey, a global management and consulting firm, concluded in a June 2022 survey that 35 percent of American employees are now working from home and another 23 percent are doing so at least one day a week.

McKinsey further added that while it did not conduct a similar survey in 2019 — i.e., before the health crisis — other studies have shown that the number of Americans working from home was at least one-third greater, and perhaps as much as 10 times greater, than it had been beforehand.

As a result, leaders have been tasked with engaging workers e.g., keeping them organized, on task, etc. while also providing vision and inspiration. Internal communication has always been crucial, but it has become that much more important with the workforce decentralized. One blogger summarized the benefits of doing so as follows:

Effective business communication is imperative to a company’s growth and success. When a communicative culture is in place, managers can channel their deliverables clearly and associates can ask questions and offer ideas. Strong communication leads to increased productivity and workflow efficiency which allows a business to perform at its peak level.

It is important to keep in mind that corporate communication hasn’t always been optimal, even before physical distance was introduced into the equation. Leaders weren’t always adaptable, clear on what they needed, or what they wanted to say.

Now, however, the challenge is that much greater. In a January 2022 piece for Forbes, Denise Vu Broady, CMO for the cloud computing and enterprise software company Appian, noted that there are no longer “water cooler moments” where asides can be exchanged and bonds formed. The dynamic is different, the demands upon leaders greater. They are well aware of this, as shown by the fact that 62 percent of the respondents to a recent study indicated they were increasingly focused on internal communications.

Here are the steps leaders must take to thrive in this new normal:

  • Look in the Mirror: Nancy Marshall, the founder and CEO of Marshall Communications, asserted that leaders would do well to perform some degree of self-assessment, not to mention self-care, before formulating their internal communications strategy. Self-care matters, in her estimation, “so you can communicate at your best and be your best.” Beyond that, she advised, it’s important to be honest, open, direct and most of all, empathetic. The latter quality is something other experts in the field have emphasized, and speaks to a larger point about the importance of emotionally intelligent leadership.
  • Be Confident, but not TOO Confident: Confidence is great. Ego is not. This speaks to another soft skill — humility. Gone are the days of the top-down dictatorship. Teams want a leader who is confident and competent but not one who will bristle if brow-beaten. Having an even-keeled leader is also a factor in retention. The Great Resignation, which saw an average of 3.95 million American workers Americans depart their jobs each month in 2021, is (and should be) an enormous concern for every organization, given the costs of recruitment and onboarding. Humility can be a game-changer.
  • Leverage Technology (But Do It Right): Never before have communications platforms like Zoom, Skype, Slack and FaceTime been so prevalent, or necessary. But marketing professional Adam Lackey emphasizes that such gadgetry must be used properly, especially given the fact that corporate teams these days are usually dominated by Millennials and those from Generation Z, who are used to short, quick TikTok and Instagram Reels. As a result, leaders need to steer clear of scripted, stale videos that run long and too often lose their audience. It’s all about getting to the point. The quicker, the better.
  • Get to the “Why”: This builds on the previous point about directness. While leaders are eminently capable of communicating the “what” and “how” of any given project, they are often less skilled at spelling out the “why,” because they either believe it’s self-evident, or they believe establishing the “what” and “how” is the most efficient way to make a desired point with their reports. The endgame needs to be spelled out, for that speaks to the vision a leader must establish, while at the same time minimizing confusion. Moreover, it serves to motivate the party in question. Who doesn’t work harder when they know what the mission is?
  • People Need to be Heard: There is no surer way for leaders to engage their teams than to be active listeners. Doing so ensures them that you understand their words matter, and that they matter. According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), there are various ways that someone can become an active listener, not the least of which is repeating someone’s last words back to them. HBR notes that while such a tactic might feel unnatural, it ensures that speakers feel they have been heard, and that the conversation stays on track. Nonverbal cues are also important. The listener can convey interest through eye contact and nodding, and can gather the speaker’s intent from his or her tone of voice, etc.

As mentioned, this is largely uncharted territory for the business community. Everybody is learning as they go. But with the workforce now scattered, it is essential that leaders adapt their communications styles.



Joel Landau

Joel Landau ( is an experienced healthcare professional in the NYC community.