How Communicating with Courage and Candor will Propel you to a Great Career

By Brenda on December 1st, 2011


Iconic leaders such as Steve Jobs, Meg Whitman, and Jack Welch have all left indelible marks on people, industries, and society. These professionals, and other great business leaders and innovators all had this in common – they communicated with courage and candor.

Communicating in this fashion comes easier for some, but like any other skill set, it can be learned. The professional that learns to engage others in this way will undoubtedly position himself or herself for that coveted corner office.

Possessing excellent communication abilities is often cited as one of the most important skill sets to be possessed by leaders and executives. But what is communication? Communication scholar and University of Denver professor Frank Dance cites over 120 cataloged definitions of communication, which shows us the term is nearly impossible to quantify.

Communication scholar E.M. Griffin offers up the following definition that provides an excellent framework for our discussion on communicating with courage and candor. Griffin states,

Communication is the relational process of creating and interpreting messages that elicit a response.”

So if communication is the relational process of creating and interpreting messages that result in a variety of responses, how do we leverage this process to convey courage and candor? Let us drill down a bit further on the topic and find out.

Communication involves talking, listening, reading, writing, performing, and witnessing. In essence, it involves anything that has to do with messages moving in and out of any particular medium at any given time. This is an important point to note for the aspiring executive and leader to be cognizant of because at any given time they are interpreting and conveying messages that have specific outcomes – both positive and negative.

Another important aspect of communication is the medium that carries the message. We often think of communication mediums (channels) as magazine articles, websites, social networking posts, television commercials, and the like.

But often times, the most important communication channel that determines the effectiveness of the message is the individual. In other words, if you want to communicate courageously and with candor, those character traits had better be a part of whom you are as a person. This concept is best captured in the following quote by University of Saskatchewan professor Lillas Brown, “We communicate from the essence of who we are as a person.”

Essential Communication Skills – Developing Credibility

What gives a message power is when the messenger connects what he or she says with what they do. That means the best way for you to communicate with courage and candor is to ensure you have a reputation of being a person who possesses those endearing qualities. If you do not establish credibility you end up speaking words and messages that will not be received as genuine and authentic.

So how does one establish credibility? To establish credibility you need to engage in clarifying yourself to others as a person of courage and candor in a way that is genuine. The best way to do this is by following the principle of showing rather than telling.

If we go back to our definition of communication we see it involves creating messages that elicit a response. The key here is that “showing” messages do not consist of text or voice. Remember that communication involves performing and witnessing. Your actions need to convey to others that you are courageous and straightforward without you even saying a word.

By engaging in activities that convey these two qualities you are developing credibility in the sight of those around you. According to leadership experts and bestselling authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, credibility is the number one characteristic people expect leaders to possess.

Within the framework of communication, credibility means your message “won’t fall on deaf ears.” It as simple as this – if people don’t believe the messenger they will not believe the message.


Category: Careers and Employment