Communicate like a Leader

Interested in Becoming a Member?

An SIM Membership like no other, provides you with an abundance of tools, resources and opportunities to help you achieve your professional and personal success at every step of the way! Be part of our learning community of more than 34,000 corporate and individual members.

For more information about membership, please click here »

Member Login

If u are a subscriber, please use ur subscriber login.
If you are a SIM Member, please use your SIM Membership login.

Forgot your password?

Member Login

Forgot your password?
login  Cancel

Sign Up

If you wish to sign up for a SIM Membership, please click here


If you wish to subscribe to Today's Manager, please click here

If you wish to subscribe to Singapore Management Review, please click here

Website maintenance notice: Website will not be accessible from 27 June (11 pm) to 28 June (9 am) due to scheduled maintenance. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Home > Articles > Communicate like a Leader

 Communicate like a Leader

Tan Chee Teik | General
June 8, 2018

​To communicate well, leaders must acquire the latest knowledge in the industry. They must listen to others, read widely, interact with the right specialists, and learn from others’ experiences. 

WE spend more than 90 per cent of our time communicating with individuals and groups within and outside the company, locally and regionally, orally and in writing. In fact, the company pays us to communicate.


Many organisational problems surface as a result of poor communication. Few business leaders would admit that they have poor communication skills, not realising that others obey them because of their authority rather than their excellent interacting skills.

Recently, the owner of a BMW, presumably a leader, wanted to fill his tank with S$10 worth of petrol as he was transferring car ownership that day. He may have said: “Fill ten” but the pump attendant heard “Fill tank”. He topped up the tank to the tune of S$135. In the misunderstanding, the attendant was prepared to pay him S$125 from his own pocket. This caused much concern in the social media. So, a simple command can be misunderstood. It could be that the car owner mumbled the order as he was in a hurry to buy groceries or the attendant had never seen a large car filling only a sip of petrol.

Great communicators are skilled at reading the audience and observing their needs. They are ready to listen. They can sense the moods, attitudes, values, and concerns of others. If necessary, they will be prepared to speak in the language of the other party.

Good Communication

Let us look at some pointers to good communication. Some leaders feel that they are better communicators when they write. So, they regularly send out executive E-mails as a form of corporate communication. While the message is couched in clear language, it does not encourage feedback. It is more a monologue rather than a dialogue. It does not help to build meaningful relationships. The employees will simply say: “That’s the boss talking to himself again.”

You need to build up trust with the audience. If they trust you they will invest time to do a good job according to the set directions. Loyalty follows trust. They will provide good advice if they sense that you are taking the wrong path.

You gain respect when the audience learns something after the dialogue with you. You are a good storyteller and with each story the listeners learn something new that they can take away with them and use one day.

Some leaders are intentionally ambiguous. They think that they have something important that they cannot share at that time with certain groups. By not being specific, the various groups start rumours that may be harmful to the company.

Always keep an open mind. Seek out those with opposing opinions to yours to try to fathom what is going on in their minds. They may harbour good arguments that you have not considered. By allowing these people to air their views, you are encouraging even the introverts to join in the discussion.

The great leaders spend more time listening than forcing their views on others. It takes great patience to listen but the rewards are there. Many fall into the trap of thinking that they are know-alls and go on talking even when specialists are waiting to give their opinions. When will they ever learn?

When you are engaging a person either conversationally or in writing, try to read between the lines. There are many who do not wish to speak their minds. They prefer to hide their true views. But when you ask the right questions, it will trigger off the dam in the stream and you will learn more with every encounter.

Many leaders love to hear praises. There are those who are skilled at praising, right or wrong, to gain favour. Beware of such people as they are often insincere. 

To be able to communicate well, you must also acquire the latest knowledge in the industry. Read widely, interact with the right specialists, and learn from others’ experiences. Give more time to listening.

Mr Tan Chee Teik is a freelance journalist. He is a regular contributor to M360 and Today’s Manager.

Copyright © 2018 Singapore Institute of Management

Browse Articles

By Topic
By Industry
By Geography