9 Ways Great Leaders Communicate

Great leaders are great communicators. Communication certainly includes making a great speech, or for pastors, delivering a compelling sermon. That kind of communication is important, but it’s less so than communicating well one-on-one. I recently finished reading neuroscientist Andrew Newberg’s book, Words Can Change your Brain. His book suggests 12 key neuroscience based communication practices. I’ve included nine here with some brief comments.

Young brothers talking with tin can telephone on grunge backgrou

Nine ways great leaders communicate:

1. They convey a relaxed demeanor.

They’re not tense or frazzled. People pick up on our emotional tone, whether it’s good or bad. It’s called emotional contagion. So when we’re relaxed, it encourages the other person to relax as well.

2. They stay fully present for the person they’re talking to.

They’re not in a rush to move on to something or someone else. They don’t look over the other person’s shoulder. Rather, they make genuine eye contact. Eye contact stimulates the social networks of our brains, decreases the stress hormone cortisol, and increases the neurotransmitter oxytocin which has been called the trust chemical, all of which enhance communication.

3. They practice inner stillness and quietness.

This reflects the Psalmists words in Psalms 46.10. Be still and know that I am God.

4. They pay attention to non-verbal cues in the face and body of the person with whom they’re talking.

Our words seldom fully convey what we really think and feel. However, our eyes, face, and tone communicate much of what we do think and feel. If we don’t pay attention to the non-verbal, communication will suffer.

5. They express appreciation and gratitude.

People yearn to hear encouragement from their leaders. Authentic praise for a job well done makes huge deposits in the souls of those around us. And, when we give a compliment at the end of a conversation, it’s actually received better than one given at the beginning of a conversation.

6. They speak with a warm tone.

A warm tone can set the stage for effective communication whereas a harsh or negative tone can set up resistance in the other person.

7. They speak slowly.

When we speak slowly, those listening can comprehend us better and it can help calm an anxious person.

8. They speak briefly.

They don’t hog the conversation with their words. Since our brain can only hold so much information at once in our working memory, speaking for shorter lengths of time improves communication by helping the listener retain more of what we say.

9. They listen deeply.

To listen deeply means that we don’t let our minds wander but that we give our full attention to the other person speaking.

Try some of these practices the next time you talk to someone and see what difference it can make.

What would you add to this list?

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The 3 Kinds of People in Every Church

In Judson Edward’s book, The Leadership Labyrinth, he describes 21 paradoxes in ministry. He defines the ‘relationship paradox’ in this way: the people who like you the most will be the ones you try least to please. He then writes that these three kinds of people fill every church.

People praying in European church. Brezje, Slovenia
  • The energizers: their very presence makes us feel better, buoys our spirits, and fills our tank.
  • The regular folks: they may not buoy our spirits, but they don’t demoralize us either. They make up the largest group in a church.

The main difference between the energizers and the drainers are their expectations of us. The energizers don’t place great expectations on us. The drainers do.

We don’t measure up to the drainers expectations. Either our preaching or counseling or leading or availability is not enough. These subtle unmet expectations may not be overt, but when we are around these people, we feel their unspoken disapproval.

Edwards pens these profound words.

“When our credo becomes ‘I am as you desire me,’ we have lost the very thing that will enable us to minister effectively: our authenticity.”

Edwards rounds out his chapter with three insights into how Jesus responded to his drainers.

  • First, Jesus retreated from this drainers to refresh himself and seek God. He regularly sought renewal.
  • Second, Jesus balanced his drainers with his energizers.
  • Third, Jesus didn’t allow the drainers to deter him from his plan and purpose.

Although Jesus practiced a rhythm of renewal and time away from his drainers, he never got rid of them. He still had to contend with them, just as we pastors must do in our churches.

Not everyone liked Jesus. Not everyone will like us. But God’s grace gives us what we need to serve even the most draining drainers.

What other categories of church people would you add to this list?

If this post resonates with you, you may enjoy my third book that released last year: People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership. It was one of this year’s Outreach Resource of the Year Recommendation in leadership.

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Is the Best Term ‘Christian’ or ‘Follower of Christ?’

As a pastor I try to read broadly enough to understand the current Christian vernacular. One great read, Deep Church, unpacked the terminology of the emerging/emergent church and those that think more traditionally and suggests an in-between position. I recommend it. Through such reading I’ve noticed the past few years that the church’s vernacular seems to be in constant flux, depending on who you read or listen to. The church growth movement told me to avoid certain words or phrases for fear of turning off the listener. Other recent voices suggest new terminology as well, such as these.

Theology Word Cloud Concept with great terms such as study, religion, God and more.
  • Some replace such terms as justification, sanctification, and atonement with other words with less syllables.
  • The term seeker was/is used as a preferred word for  a lost person.
  • Salvation is now cross the line of faith.
  • The newest replacement phrase is follower of Christ in lieu of Christian or believer.

When I preach and teach, I try to use theological terms that make sense to the listener. If you listen to any of my messages, you’ll probably find that my word choices do change.

But the last one, follower of Christ, even though I sometimes use it, can sometimes feel a bit forced.

I’m not sure why I feel that way.

Is it because I’ve used believer and Christian for so long that subconsciously I don’t like change?

Is is it because I feel like I’m trying to be theologically hip by using the coolest new words or phrases?

Or, is it just too new for me to feel comfortable using it?

I’m still wrestling with this one.

What are your thoughts on updated theological vernacular?

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Traits of Catalytic Leaders

In The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leadership Organizations authors Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom highlight the value of what they call ‘leaderless’ organizations. Although I don’t endorse leaderless organizations per se, one chapter describes tools that successful non-leader leaders use to catalyze their respective organizations. I’ve listed below some of their insights from this unusual perspective.

Catalyst - Shallow Depth Of Field Macro Close-Up Selective Focus Of Word Highlighted In Dictionary In Orange

Qualities they suggest would apply to any leader.

  • Genuine interest in others
  • Loose connections (they don’t limit themselves to a few close friends but have many connections)
  • Mapping (catalysts think of who they know, who those people know, how they all relate to one another, and how they fit into a huge mental map)
  • Desire to help others
  • Passion
  • Meet people where they are (there is a difference between passionate and pushy; catalysts rely less on persuasion and more on meeting people where they are )
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Trust
  • Inspiration (catalysts often inspire others to work toward a goal that often doesn’t involve their own personal gain)
  • Tolerance for ambiguity (they learn to be OK when they don’t have concrete answers to big questions)
  • Hands-Off approach (they are less apt to use command and control)
  • Receding (after they accomplish what they intended, they get out of the way)

The authors also contrast CEO’s to Catalysts.

CEO’s vs Catalysts:

  • the boss vs a peer
  • command-and-control vs trust
  • rational vs emotionally intelligent
  • powerful vs inspirational
  • directive vs collaborative
  • in the spotlight vs behind the scenes
  • order vs ambiguity
  • organizing vs connecting

What do you think about leader-less organizations? Do you think leadership is either one or the other?

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How to Plan an Effective Solo Planning Retreat

My undergrad degree is industrial engineering. So, planning comes second nature for me. Yet as a busy pastor I’ve found that I can never get adequate long-term planning done unless I carve out regular extended times away, by myself, away from the office. Here are a few tips I suggest.

Business concept. Isolated on white
  1. Schedule 2-3 personal planning times each year, preferable overnight in a place with no TV. I’ve used retreat centers and a friend’s cabin in the woods. Ideally I’m in such a location that I don’t have to talk to anybody. I’ve found it ideal to plan those times well in advance of ministry seasons (i.e., Aug/Sept for the coming year plans).
  2. Compile a list of items you want to think about on your retreats. I use Outliner on my iPhone/iPad to jot down ideas and thoughts I want to pursue later but don’t have time at the moment to think about. Another great tool across all Mac and PC platforms is Nozbe.
  3. On the retreat, prioritize what you want to plan, starting with the most important. I’ve discovered I never get to everything on my list, but I do get to the priorities.
  4. Schedule you next retreat as your first task. This allows me another block of time to address long-term planning for items I don’t get to on this retreat.
  5. Go expecting that God will guide this process.

What has helped make your planning retreats successful?

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