Leadership: Communication – A Leader’s Key to Success by Dr. John C. Maxwell


communicates, communication, keyless-entry, keyless-ignition, leader, leader-key, motivation, poor-communication, successFor my whole life, I have opened my car door by inserting a metal key into a physical lock. Now, I can unlock the doors and start the car at the push of a button. It seems like magic to me, but it´s actually a simple application of science.

Keyless entry and keyless ignition are made possible when a transmitter within your key fob communicates with a radio receiver inside the car. Two conditions are necessary for this communication to take place: 1) the transmitter must be set to the same frequency as the receiver, and 2) the transmitter must send a uniquely coded message which the receiver has been programmed in advance to recognize.

Communication acts as a leader´s “keyless entry” into relationships. It can open the mind of an employer, the wallet of investors, and the hearts of loved ones. Talented communicators seem magical when they weave their words together. However, much like the concept of keyless entry, great communication depends on two simple skills—context and delivery. Context attunes a leader to the same frequency as his or her audience. Delivery allows a leader to phrase messages in a language the audience can understand.

As we explore context and delivery, we’ll draw upon Steven K. Scott’s book, The Richest Man Who Ever Lived. In the book, Scott offers commentary on the words of King Solomon, the wealthiest man in history. Renowned for his wisdom, Solomon writings are filled with advice about effective communication.


Listen before Speaking
“He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame unto him.” ~ Proverbs 18:13

Earn the right to be heard by listening to others. Seek to understand a situation before making judgments about it. As the Greek philosopher, Epictetus, observed, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Understand Human Nature
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” ~ Proverbs 12:18

Words are powerful, and they can build up or tear down those who hear them. Regardless of your audience or avenue of communication, the following principles enable you to communicate constructively.

People are insecure. Leaders can bestow confidence by demonstrating their trust and belief in a person’s abilities. People want to feel special. Leaders win a loyal following when they are generous with compliments and acts of appreciation. People are looking for a better future. Leaders inspire through an optimistic outlook and words of hope. People are selfish. Leaders learn to motivate when they begin speaking to the needs of their people.

Be Emotionally Aware
“Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day…is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” ~ Proverbs 25:20

Communicating within context involves taking the emotional temperature of others. Pay attention to facial expressions, voice inflection, and posture. They give clues to a person’s mood and attitude.


Adopt an Appropriate Tone
“A soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up anger.” ~ Proverbs 15:1

When you’re emotionally aware, you’re halfway to effective communication, but you still have to deliver your words appropriately. Many times it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Adopt a fitting tone to address the emotional state of those around you, and your words will have their desired effect.

Speak Persuasively
“The heart of the wise teaches his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.” ~ Proverbs 16:23

The National Storytelling Festival, held in Jonesborough, Tennessee features some of America’s most captivating communicators. Listen for awhile, and you’ll discover traits that allow them to persuade listeners to take interest in the stories they tell.

Enthusiasm. The storytellers obviously enjoy what they are doing, expressing themselves with joy and vitality.

Animation. The presentations are marked by lively facial expressions and gestures.

Audience Participation. Almost every storyteller involves the audience in some way, asking listeners to sing, clap, repeat phrases, or do sign language.

Spontaneity. None of the storytellers have notes.

The festival is truly an oral event. Storytellers didn’t read their stories; they tell them, which allowed for eye contact.

Be Honest
“He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.” ~ Proverbs 10:18

In an effort to persuade, leaders may be tempted to cross the line into manipulation. When doing so, facts may be fabricated or spun deceptively. Lies add complexity to life since the liar has to operate under the guise of falsehood. Eventually, lies are brought to light and undermine credibility. Leaders protect their character by using discretion in their language. They speak truthfully—even when honesty is costly.


Poor communication is the number one culprit of failed relationships—in business and at home. Since relationships are the foundation of success, leaders would be wise to invest in the communication skills of context and delivery. Master them, and you’ll more easily gain favor, more readily make friends, and more effectively motivate others.

Author: John C. Maxwell

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