Message to Leaders: Speak with Conviction…Listen With Intention

2-ears-1-mouthEvery 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 trusting 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.


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

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

Note: Originally posted in April, 2012


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Filed under communication, Leadership, Leadership Development

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