How to Leverage Different Communication Styles in Leadership

How to Leverage Different Communication Styles in Leadership

“Communication is the only task you cannot delegate,” said the former CEO of Coca-Cola, Roberto Goizueta. This is why a leader’s communication style is fundamental to their success. 

Whether it’s addressing a town hall, mentoring a junior, or terminating a team member’s employment, good communication is a superpower. In this blog post, let’s see how you can shape and wield your superpower to your advantage.

Summarize this article with AI ClickUp Brain not only saves you precious time by instantly summarizing articles, it also leverages AI to connect your tasks, docs, people, and more, streamlining your workflow like never before.
ClickUp Brain
Avatar of person using AI Summarize this article for me please

Understanding Leadership Communication

What does a CEO do? A good CEO’s job is to lead—to make decisions, guide team members, build relationships, and persuade stakeholders, be it customers, partners, or employees.

The foundation of this is leadership communication, which conveys purpose, facilitates understanding, and inspires action among followers. 

What is leadership communication?

Leadership communication refers to any information/instruction given by someone in a position of authority to their junior/subordinate. In addition to the message, it also encompasses the mode of delivery, non-verbal cues, tone of voice, and a lot more. 

Why is leadership communication important now?

The nature of work is dramatically changing in response to the pandemic, the preferences of Gen Z, global market dynamics, and the rapid innovation driven by startups. 

These days, work styles are more democratic, with flat organizational structures, as opposed to the autocratic nature of traditional leadership. Practices such as servant leadership and authentic leadership are growing in popularity, changing the way leaders communicate and collaborate with their teams. 

Moreover, various situations demand a different communication style, depending on the challenge at hand, team dynamics, and expected outcomes. For instance, a startup CEO needs to take a completely different approach to disclosing a new round of funding than announcing layoffs.

To lead effectively, you need to understand the various leadership communication styles and how you can use them. 

Summarize this article with AI ClickUp Brain not only saves you precious time by instantly summarizing articles, it also leverages AI to connect your tasks, docs, people, and more, streamlining your workflow like never before.
ClickUp Brain
Avatar of person using AI Summarize this article for me please

Types of Leadership Communication Styles

Every leader has a variety of communication styles. You’ll speak a different style when you need your team to be excited, as opposed to just sending a mundane memo about the change of the coffee machine in the cafeteria. 

Let’s explore the various communication styles and how you can use them in your work.


Steve Jobs is known to have said, “We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do,” which is a lesson in the listening style of leadership communication.

Listening communication style refers to an active engagement and genuine attempt to understand the speaker’s message, emotions, and underlying intentions. Listening leadership communication style is:

  • Active: Focusing on the speaker’s verbal and non-verbal cues, asking questions, and exploring the idea in greater detail
  • Reflective: Paraphrasing or summarizing the speaker’s message to confirm accurate understanding
  • Empathetic: Acknowledging the speaker’s feelings and perspectives

Why is listening a good communication style?

Listening builds connections and trust with the team. It makes the team more collaborative, bringing together everyone’s ideas. Diversity thrives when a leader listens.

It helps keep calm in emotionally charged or tense situations. Leaders can put out big fires by listening carefully and validating, “It’s okay to be anxious. I understand your feeling,” leaders can put out big fires.

When is listening the right communication style?

Listening is a great communication style in the following situations.

  • Brainstorming to solve complex problems
  • Addressing difficult situations such as customer complaints or an employee resigning
  • When the leader is new to the team and the connections are not yet strong
  • When there is a trust deficit among team members


Employees look up to business leaders for direction. While a leader can’t have all the answers, they are expected to guide their teams down the right path. The communication style that works best here is advising.

This communication style is characterized by:

  • Giving context: Offering a perspective, based on experience or visibility, that teams might not have
  • Sharing experience: Recalling approaches from the past to recommend responses to the problem at hand
  • Offering recommendations: Suggesting a few options that the team can choose from based on their insights
  • Providing feedback: Identifying gaps in current performance and suggesting ways to improve 

Why is advising a good communication style?

It is a direct way to solve problems, builds a sense of reliability, accelerates decision-making, and leverages the leader’s expertise and experience to benefit the entire team.

When is advising the right communication style?

No one likes advice that’s uncalled for. So, advising communication style needs to be used carefully. It is best in the following situations.

  • When the team comes with a problem they have been unable to resolve after trying everything they could
  • When you’re conducting reviews/retrospectives when advice is expected
  • During mentorship/coaching sessions


Directing refers to giving clear, concise, and authoritative instructions or commands that guide team members, often straightforwardly and unambiguously, toward what to do. 

Directing style of communication in team management is characterized by the following:

  • Clarity: Specific, unambiguous directions that outline what to do, how to do, and when
  • Immediate feedback: Direct feedback that is provided instantaneously if the performance is below par
  • Decisiveness: Firm decisions are communicated clearly to the team

Why is directing a good communication style?

Directing is straightforward and unambiguous. It does not leave the communication open to (mis)interpretation, creating consistency and familiar context among team members. 

While authoritative, this communication style shouldn’t be confused with an authoritarian approach. Businesses that follow this communication style often have enough checks and balances to keep the process democratic.

When is directing the right communication style?

Directing is suitable for—even necessary in—high-pressure situations, emergencies, and tight deadlines. In businesses, this style of communication is often evoked in crisis. For instance, if there is an accident in a factory, leaders will direct their teams to go home immediately, get themselves checked by a doctor, not speak to the press, etc.


Delegating communication style refers to a leader’s ability to handle work and get things done effectively. Effective delegation requires you to define the following.

  • Task: What needs to be done
  • Method (if applicable): How does it need to be done
  • Standards: What is the acceptance criteria for the task
  • Deadline: When does the work need to be completed
  • Context: Any additional information that might be useful

Why is delegating a good communication style?

Every leader must delegate, without which they would be unable to complete any work. Moreover, this approach provides clarity and autonomy to team members, who can take ownership of their outcomes.

When is delegating a good communication style?

Delegating is always a good practice, especially when the leader needs support in getting work done.


A motivating communication style focuses on inspiring and encouraging team members to give their best performance and reach personal and organizational goals. 

Motivating is characterized by:

  • Expressing belief: Speaking words that validate the team members and inspire confidence in them 
  • Providing challenges: Setting clear and achievable goals that challenge the team members to aspire for more
  • Encouraging self-development: Recommending ways and means for personal development; offering to send the team members for workshops/training, etc.

Why is motivating a good communication style?

Everyone needs a cheerleader on their side. Motivating leadership communication style builds a sense of trust, validation, acceptance, and encouragement among team members. It helps people feel seen.

Why is motivating the right communication style?

While it’s always good to say a few motivating words, it’s beneficial in situations where:

  • The team is a little low on morale
  • The challenge you’re facing seems unsurmountable
  • You’re trying something new and are worried about its outcome


Teaching communication style refers to transferring the leaders’ knowledge, skills, and insights to their team members. Effective teaching involves a combination of explicit instruction, encouragement of curiosity, and building an environment where learning is valued. 

The teaching style of communication is characterized by the following:

  • Explanations: Breaking down complex ideas into understandable parts
  • Encouraging questions: Creating an atmosphere where team members feel comfortable asking questions
  • Experimentation: Working together on solving problems, brainstorming ideas, testing them out in sandbox environments, etc.
  • External help: Organizing workshops and simulations with experts outside the organization

Why is teaching a good communication style?

In a world where a lot of manual work is getting automated, knowledge work is what will remain. For employees to be knowledgeable, they sometimes need to be taught what they don’t know. In such cases, teaching is a great way.

When is teaching the right communication style?

Teaching is especially effective when knowledge transfer is critical, such as research labs. It is also great for inter-departmental knowledge-sharing, where the sales leader teaches the product teams about customer needs/demands.


Coaching is an interpretation of the teaching style of leadership communication. It focuses on guiding team members to discover solutions and realize their potential through self-reflection, goal setting, and action planning.

Coaching style of leadership communication is characterized by the following: 

  • Sharing personal experiences: Enriching teaching by sharing experiences and lessons learned
  • Encouraging accountability: Holding team members accountable for their progress toward the goals and doing so with a sense of responsibility. 
  • Self-assessment: Offering frameworks and models to evaluate one’s own performance
  • Reflection: For both the employee and the leader, enabling mutual growth

Why is coaching a good communication style?

Coaching focuses on providing people with the tools, techniques, and encouragement they need to grow. By using this communication style, leaders can bring out the best in their team members.

When is coaching the right communication style?

Coaching is best when:

  • There is time to solve the problem or make progress
  • The changes needed are personal or behavioral, such as developing a growth mindset or working on presentation skills
  • The employee is driven to make progress but doesn’t know how

Now that we’ve learned about the various communication styles let’s see how they affect team dynamics.

Summarize this article with AI ClickUp Brain not only saves you precious time by instantly summarizing articles, it also leverages AI to connect your tasks, docs, people, and more, streamlining your workflow like never before.
ClickUp Brain
Avatar of person using AI Summarize this article for me please

The Role of Leadership Communication in Team Dynamics

Employees across organizations make decisions based on how they feel. If feedback makes them feel attacked, they could get defensive. If a policy change feels restrictive, they might protest. 

A fundamental part of how employees feel at the workplace is defined by leadership communication. This can impact various organizational factors. Here are a few.

Team building

A leader—a manager or supervisor—is the anchor of any team. Their communication strategy keeps the team together. It:

  • Creates unity and purpose
  • Builds alignment towards common objectives based on a clear vision 
  • Enables trusting and meaningful relationships with the leader and among team members
  • Fosters creativity, collaboration, and innovation
  • Smoothens conflict resolution

In short, leadership communication builds productive, effective, and resilient teams.


Studies show that for Gen Z employees, the organization’s mission is as important as the job itself. Leadership communication plays a critical role in how an organization is perceived by: 

  • Communicating the mission, vision, and values to engage those who are aligned with it
  • Presenting the company culture in a compelling manner
  • Engaging dialogue during the recruitment process, building positive relationships with candidates
  • Clearly articulating goals and expectations from the candidate

Employee retention

Effective team communication creates a transparent, inclusive, and supportive culture where employees feel valued, understood, and connected.

To achieve this, leadership communication must include:

  • Recognition of employees’ efforts and achievements
  • Communication around career development opportunities
  • Discussions about professional growth
  • Off-site conversations about what inspires/motivates an individual 

Better team performance

Good leadership communication is a great starting point. Leaders respond in kind when they speak to their teams openly and transparently.

The ability to discuss, debate, and disagree creates a sense of community and ownership. This emotional investment significantly boosts morale, increases engagement, and motivates individuals to go above and beyond in their contributions.

Summarize this article with AI ClickUp Brain not only saves you precious time by instantly summarizing articles, it also leverages AI to connect your tasks, docs, people, and more, streamlining your workflow like never before.
ClickUp Brain
Avatar of person using AI Summarize this article for me please

Applying Leadership Styles for Effective Leadership Communication

Leadership styles and communication styles go hand in hand. Like leadership styles, which are often adapted and evolved as the situation demands, communication is, too.

For instance, a leader whose preferred communication style is listening or coaching might need to turn to directing during times of crisis. 

Even Warren Buffet, known for his laissez-faire management style, might turn to advising or teaching if things go wrong. 

Some great examples of good leadership communication are below.

Brian Chesky announcing lay-offs at the onset of the pandemic

Airbnb took a big hit as the travel industry completely shut down in early 2020. The company had to lay off 25% of its workforce to stay afloat. Brian Chesky, the CEO wrote a poignant and empathetic communication to the team. He explained how and why they made the decision. And offered any help the laid-off employees might need.

AirBnb email

Airbnb CEO email to laid-off employees

Via Airbnb

For those interested in crisis-times communication, this is a great example.

Andy Jassy’s 2022 letter to shareholders

CEOs and business leaders regularly write letters to shareholders. In 2022, Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon, wrote about their various changes.

Andy’s long letter explores the challenges, disinvestments, layoffs, and reprioritization. He also discusses their renewed investment strategy and hope for the future.

This letter is a great starting point for those interested in leadership communication that weaves a story from numbers.

Satya Nadella’s first letter as CEO

When Satya Nadella took over as the CEO of Microsoft, he sent an email to all employees with questions (who am I? Why am I here? What do we do next? etc.) and answers.

He takes a personal motivational communication style to introduce himself and set the tone for his tenure as the leader.

Satya Nadella letter
Satya Nadella’s first letter as CEO

via The Verge

Read the letter in full to see how one can build excitement around such a significant organizational change. 

Bonus: Here’s how erstwhile PepsiCo CEO Indira Nooyi wrote to the parents of her direct reports to thank them.

Summarize this article with AI ClickUp Brain not only saves you precious time by instantly summarizing articles, it also leverages AI to connect your tasks, docs, people, and more, streamlining your workflow like never before.
ClickUp Brain
Avatar of person using AI Summarize this article for me please

Techniques to Successfully Implement Communication Styles in Leadership

Whichever leadership communication style you choose, here are a few techniques you can use to implement them into everyday practice. If you’re a fully remote team, a free project management software like ClickUp would do wonders for you.

Conduct regular check-ins (listening style)

Listen to your team in formal and informal ways. As a formal practice, schedule one-on-one meetings to encourage your team members to share their accomplishments, needs, and challenges. Discuss progress, address concerns, and offer support during these sessions. 

On an everyday basis, keep an eye on your team’s conversations. ClickUp’s chat view enables real-time collaboration among team members, which you can watch out for. ClickUp collaboration detection tells you who’s online, so you can chat offline with them when available.

ClickUp Chat view
ClickUp chat view for listening leadership communication style

Share knowledge (teaching style)

For situations where you need to teach, try ClickUp Docs. You can effortlessly build your knowledge base, write a Wiki, or connect ideas into workflows.

To teach specific concepts, write down the above elements—explanations, context, training material, etc.—in detail and share them with the team. What’s more? Use ClickUp Brain to summarize and proofread as well.

ClickUp Docs Overview
Building organizational knowledge on ClickUp Docs

If you’re the delegating type, ClickUp tasks is a great place to curate all the information your team needs, such as the description of the task, method, standards, deadlines, and context. You can also assign comments to team members, invite responses, or convert comments into tasks.

ClickUp Tasks
Delegate better with ClickUp tasks

Brainstorming (teaching and advising style)

Make your advice interactive with ClickUp Whiteboard. Visually explain complex concepts or offer multi-step advice, combining drawings, sticky notes, hierarchy diagrams, and more.

ClickUp Whiteboards
ClickUp Whiteboard for teaching and advising communication styles

Checklists (directing style)

If you lead a team whose work needs to meet specific standards, direct them to follow a checklist. ClickUp tasks allow you to add checklists individually to each task or create templates and apply them to similar tasks.

Goal setting (coaching and motivating style)

Lead your team towards a common communication goal by always making it visible. ClickUp Goals is built for leaders who need to track work against strategy with measurable targets.

  • Measure success with key results
  • Keep goals organized in folders
  • Set numerical, monetary, true/false, and task targets
  • Automate progress tracking
ClickUp goals
ClickUp Goals for motivating communication styles 

If you’re a new leader, try some of ClickUp’s communication plan templates to give your messages a structure.

Summarize this article with AI ClickUp Brain not only saves you precious time by instantly summarizing articles, it also leverages AI to connect your tasks, docs, people, and more, streamlining your workflow like never before.
ClickUp Brain
Avatar of person using AI Summarize this article for me please

Communicate Better With ClickUp

While we’ve discussed different leadership communication styles and how to implement them, it is essential to understand that they are not mutually exclusive. 

A communication style is not a personality type. You can use the communication style best for a situation. You can use a combination of styles, too.

For instance, if an employee has been stuck for a long time in one step, a directing communication style can be interspersed with the coaching methods. You can also combine motivating communication with your delegation style to ensure the team feels excited about their work.

If, as Goizueta says, you can’t delegate it, set up the systems you need to master it. ClickUp’s project management and communication workspace is designed for precisely that. 

Reduces the communication gap between you and your teams. Try ClickUp for free today!

Summarize this article with AI ClickUp Brain not only saves you precious time by instantly summarizing articles, it also leverages AI to connect your tasks, docs, people, and more, streamlining your workflow like never before.
ClickUp Brain
Avatar of person using AI Summarize this article for me please

FAQs About Leadership Communication Styles

1. What is the communication style in leadership?

Communication style in leadership refers to how leaders convey messages, share information, and provide feedback to their team members. It encompasses the tone, language, methods, and frequency of communication a leader uses to interact with others within an organization.

2. What are the four types of communication styles?

The four primary communication styles are passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. 

Each style reflects a different way of expressing oneself and interacting with others, influencing interpersonal dynamics and communication effectiveness.

3. How is communication a factor of leadership style?

Communication is a fundamental factor in shaping and defining leadership style and how a leader communicates—whether verbally, nonverbally, or through their actions—dramatically influences how their teams are being led. 

For instance, transactional communication during a transformational event can demotivate employees, causing attrition. On the other hand, thoughtful communication about small changes—like changing the insurance provider—can make employees feel a sense of community and belonging.

How you communicate is the most critical determinant of your effectiveness as a leader.

Questions? Comments? Visit our Help Center for support.

Sign up for FREE and start using ClickUp in seconds!
Please enter valid email address