12 Best Practices to Improve Your Leadership Communication

Technical skills get you in the door. But communication skills get you hired, promoted, respected, and recognized as a leader in your organization. 

I knew one manager who struggled to master those essential communication skills and it resulted in employee dissatisfaction. 

He had recently become a manager after spending the majority of his career as an individual contributor. He thought what his team needed was more technical guidance. By doing a large part of the work for them and stepping in at the last moment to make final edits to their products, he thought he was being helpful. 

But in reality the team suffered from lack of communication around their responsibilities and role expectations. Team morale dropped precipitously…until communication improved. 

In this article I’d like to overview the scientifically proven importance of communication competence in leadership, and the 12 levers you can pull to supercharge your communication skills. 

Leadership is Communication

When leaders speak well, people not only listen. They thrive. 

Studies have demonstrated time and time again that leadership is communication:

  • Berman and Hellweg showed in 1989 that employees were more satisfied when their managers communicated well1
  • Myers and Kassing showed 9 years later, in 1998, that employees identified more strongly with their organization when their managers communicated well1

10 years later, in 2008, Paul Madlock at West Virginia University added a new wrinkle to this understanding.1 His research suggested managers were more likely to be seen as leaders if they spoke well. In fact, one of the strongest predictors of positive employee performance and outcomes was manager communication competence (even more so than manager leadership style). 

To be clear, these studies are largely correlational. But they do give a strong indication that organizations that invest in managerial communication competence may experience decreased turnover and increased employee productivity and satisfaction. 

For more information on how communication competence can improve not only your employee’s but your own satisfaction and self-confidence, check out this video:

Of course, the natural next question is: what exactly is communication competence and how do we get it? 

What is Communication Competence?

For the purpose of this article the scope will remain narrowed to communication competence within the workplace and to observable behavior. After all, unlike technical competence which is often measured by gauging knowledge of facts, communication competence measures knowledge through perception of behavior and how appropriate that behavior is in context.2

One of the most consistently reliable measures of communication competence was one used by Paul Madlock in his 2008 study of the relationship between communication and leadership: the Communicator Competence Questionnaire developed by Monge et. al in 1982.1 

Monge’s model excels because it relates communication competence to goal achievement, an already well-accepted mode of evaluation within the workplace.3 Effective leaders, in other words, are those who can get things done, who can use their communication skills to successfully delegate tasks and develop relationships. 

Below are the 12 questions in Monge’s original questionnaire, intended to be used by a manager to evaluate an employee (or an employee to evaluate a manager) in terms of communication competence:1

“My immediate manager/employee . . .”

  1. “has a good command of the language”
  2. “is sensitive to my needs of the moment”
  3. “typically gets right to the point”
  4. “pays attention to what I say to him or her”
  5. “deals with me effectively”
  6. “is a good listener”
  7. “is difficult to understand when communicating in written form”
  8. “expresses his or her ideas clearly”
  9. “is difficult to understand when he or she speaks to me”
  10. “generally says the right thing at the right time”
  11. “is easy to talk to”
  12. “usually responds to messages (memos‚ phone calls‚ reports‚ etc.) quickly”

As these twelve questions demonstrate, communication competence is the ability to speak clearly and concisely, as well as the ability to listen and address the needs of your audience, all within different organizational contexts.  

For more tips on effective communication and storytelling, read more here.

For more tips on effective listening, read more here.

My Adapted Communication Self-Assessment

In order to leverage the insights from this research to advance your own communication skills, I’ve adapted Monge’s questionnaire into a self-assessment, updated for modern times and modern expectations within the tech industry. 

In particular I made the following adjustments: 

Item 12 “usually responds to messages…quickly” can be an unrealistic requirement in a time when we are inundated with messages
  • I’ve kept the intention of the original, but translated it into an evaluation of the ability to answer questions well in the moment
Items 7 and 9 were “reverse-coded” to describe negative behaviors, a sharp break from the positive behaviors described in all other items
  • This survey technique is typically used to reduce bias and encourage more thoughtful answer choices. However, in the interest of reducing confusion, I’ve converted those items into the corresponding positive behaviors
Item 7 originally described communication in written form
  • In the interest of personalizing the questionnaire to the needs of presentation in the tech industry, I’ve specified this item more narrowly in terms of slides and visuals

Besides these small changes, the overall construction and design of the questionnaire remain the same. By improving your communication skills along the 12 dimensions of this survey, you can amplify your ability to lead and drive positive employee outcomes. 

My Adapted Communicator Competence Questionnaire is now freely available as an interactive application on this site. If you’d like to evaluate your communication competence in a science-backed, research-proven way, click the button below to take your self-assessment today:


Leadership is communication. Rather than miring employees in confusion around responsibilities and expectations, leadership is about clearly delegating tasks and developing healthy relationships: 

Studies show employees have positive job outcomes and high job satisfaction when they have managers who communicate effectively1 

One widely cited model in the research community for evaluating workplace communication competence is Monge’s Communicator Competence Questionnaire1

You can evaluate your own communication competence along the 12 dimensions of Monge’s original study using this link

*Note: Research (such as performed by Rubin et. al, 19832) demonstrates there is often only a small correlation between our self-perception of communication competence and the perception of others.

If you would like an objective, expert evaluation of your communication skills, set up a free, non-sales call with me to get a more accurate score.


1 Journal of Business Communication, “The Link Between Leadership Style, Communicator Competence, and Employee Satisfaction”

2 Education Resources Information Center, “Conceptualizing Communication Competence: Directions for Research and Instruction”

3 University of the Witwatersrand, “The new scale of occupational functional communication demands (SOFCD): developing a measure of competence required in workplace-communication-skills in jobs”

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