Leadership muscles have to be built just like your body muscles.

Leadership muscles are no different than body muscles and like your body, you need to exercise and build your leadership muscles to perform at your best. And like a great workout, you must break down those muscles before they can rebuild stronger than before. Want to be a great leader? Proactively identify exercises that build your leadership muscles.

Early in my career as I first began to lead teams, I typically would take the more traditional or safe route. If you are inside a large organization they actually brainwash you into forming this strategy. Play along, don’t make waves, fill out your annual employee reviews without ruffling feathers; you get the idea. This is not leadership–you are just a caretaker. Caretakers maintain, caretakers don’t grow, innovate or inspire.

Appropriate, clear, and targeted communication is the hallmark of a great leader. But what is clear or appropriate or targeted?

What types of information should you communicate as an effective leader? There are obvious items such as financial performance (revenue, cost or profit goals) or funding milestones. These messages are appropriate for more of your team than you might think. Want to arm an employee for maximum productivity? Bring them into your head and share with them what keeps you up at night.

I have a communication style that uses my personal experiences to connect with my team members. I share what is working for me and what I am struggling with. I don’t support leadership styles that hide our challenges with the intent of “showing good face”.

Your appropriate communication muscle is ultimately tested by the engagement with your team. If people leave your team–something is wrong. But what can you do before that happens? I suggest offsite one-on-ones (lunch or beer or coffee) where the conversation centers on what they need to be more successful. Try it–you might be surprised what you find out.

Clear communication is precise. Less is more. Too many emerging leader talk-tracks say 3x more than what needs to be said. Others view communication as a bull-horn where the thought is message loudly over and over, and everyone will get it. This feels very Stalinesque. Like great marketing, crisp messaging that is easily consumed by your team wins out every time. My approach–the rule of 3 (never more than 3 items to be communicated).

Ready to break down the muscle and rebuild? Follow these 3 steps:

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