Leaders: Speak with Conviction…Listen with Intention

Every now and then, I like to write about communication.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  The first is that the language we use has a lot to do with how others regard us.  And, in leadership, how we are regarded has a lot to do with the decisions people make about following us…or not.

The second reason is that the ease at which things get done in any organization often comes down to our ability to send and receive clear messages.

Like leadership, communication is a complex subject so I’m not going to try and simplify it. Nor do I have a list of do’s and don’ts that will cure our respective communication ills.

I have just two thoughts to share today.

One is: If you want people to believe in you and in what you say, speaking clearly and with conviction is a good place to start.

Language has always been littered with jargon.  As English is the only language in which I have any facility, I’m going to say that English is probably one of the worst offenders.   Over the past several years though, we have become even sloppier about how we choose to express ourselves.  We punctuate our sentences with a series of ‘likes’ and ‘okays’ that muddy our messages.  And, we have developed an annoying habit of turning statements into questions.  This latter habit is particularly troublesome and serves to invite uncertainty where conviction ought to be.

Some people might think that speaking with conviction requires us to use a certain voice, maybe one that is stronger, or louder than our own.  However, I assert that conviction does not have to shout to be heard.  It just has to come from a sincere and real place.

The American poet and teacher, Taylor Mali addresses the importance of speaking clearly and with conviction here.  It is short, powerful and will make you smile.

My second thought is: If you want to learn something, discover something or build something, you must also listen with intention.

If speaking with conviction gets people’s attention and earns their confidence, Listening with intention will help us to keep it.  This is the kind of listening that demands our total presence.  Our intention must be to suspend judgment; to resist the temptation to interrupt; to fight our tendency to build arguments in our heads while someone is talking.  It requires us to explore; to question and to rephrase.  This kind of listening comes from a conscious decision to truly understand what is being said.  It does not require us to agree but it provides the opportunity for meaningful discussion that can lead to breakthrough thinking and effective collaboration.


The truth is, when it comes to speaking clearly, with conviction and listening with intention, neither is easy.  For me, it is an ongoing challenge.  But then, things worth pursuing usually are, aren’t they?

What do you think?



Filed under communication, Leadership, Leadership Development

10 responses to “Leaders: Speak with Conviction…Listen with Intention

  1. Well said, Gwyn! Your post reminds me of a former boss who excelled at these two qualities. We often saw things differently and managed to keep talking and listening until we gained a shared vision or common direction. I was completely loyal and dedicated. These traits contributed to the most collaborative leadership team I ever had the privilege of joining. Very
    powerful stuff indeed!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Jamie ~ Thanks for sharing that story. It is a fine illustration of the rewards that leaders stand to reap when they speak from confidence and listen with intent.

  2. Great post. I find the listening part the hardest. To help I try to listen from a point of curiosity, hold off on putting my 2 cents in, and asking questions.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Jeff ~ yes, Like you, I think listening has bigger challenges as well. It would help if we could draw on the curiosity we each had as children. Regrettably some of that tends to get lost in the maturation process 🙂 Nonetheless exercising the curiosity muscle certainly helps us to keep the ears open and the mouth shut at the appropriate times. Thanks for adding that.

  3. Gwyn – great post.

    What has helped me the most with clear communication is intentionally moving away from what I want to say and toward the value I can provide to the audience. That means I have to take time to understand their needs and perspective. It doesn’t come naturally – so I’m not 100% consistent. It’s very much a work in progress.

    Thanks for including that awesome video!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Susan ~ Great point! It reminds me that like other areas of leadership, communication is rarely, if ever, about you. And, if you want to send a clear message that has meaning for others, you must first get out of yourself and look through a different lens. Thank you for adding that.

  4. Kevin

    I like to remind myself that I have 2 ears and 1 mouth, so I should listen twice as much as I should talk.

  5. alison p-h

    Great post Gwyn. I love the balance between conviction and listening, plus Susan’s comment of understanding the audience. I would also add balanced repetition. Repeating the message with conviction makes me believe. Saying it once with conviction will just be a moment in time. Active listening and then action will make me say that the communication in our office/company is strong. Otherwise it is just words. Thanks again. Alison

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Alison ~ Yes! It’s all really tied together. Speak with conviction. Listen with intent. Follow through consistently. Lead by example. Repeat. Thank you for this.

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