“I get so frustrated when someone doesn’t respond to a simple text.”

“No matter how often I reach out and seek to communicate with a peer, my texts, phone calls, and emails go unanswered – how rude and disrespectful!”

“They are always posting on FB and Instagram, but can’t take one second to respond to me!”

When you neglect communicating with those who are attempting to communicate with you, you are making a strong statement and may not even know it. Leaders can’t succeed if they aren’t good communicators – and more often than not, leaders don’t even know that their communication skills need polishing. Communication has power, but like any powerful tool it needs to be used effectively or it can cause self-inflicted and collateral harm. Harnessing the power of communication is a fundamental leadership discipline. And the first thing that must be understood is that communication is not a one-way conversation, it takes at least two to have communication. – Simple to understand, but not always practiced.

In this age where communication has often moved away from the face-to-face, to where we are now, communicating through phone calls, voicemails, texts, and social media platforms. With these 21st century tools, we are at an advantage as to how instantly we can or when we respond; at the same time, we are at a disadvantage as to how and when we respond. This is the paradox that can ruin a good thing. Organizations internally cannot be successful if communication is not flowing back and forth. Questions are asked, requests are made, appeals given, information provided – all of these are within the framework of communication that goes beyond ‘personal’ conversations. The lack of or refusal to communicate with one’s peers in any organization can stunt and potentially harm an existing relationship and impact negatively the organization as a whole.

It is very easy to drop the ball from time to time with all the competing interests when it comes to communication and one can totally understand the busyness that can hinder the desire to be an effective responder. The greatest communicator was and is Jesus Christ. As we look throughout the New Testament we can see how Jesus valued relationships with people and as a result mastered communication, since it is such a vital element to healthy relationships. We need to understand how intricately relationships and communication are tied together. In our work as leaders, one cannot function or be productive without the other.

I have concluded that many leaders, much of the time, fundamentally misunderstand communication. This misunderstanding has consequences: corporations lose competitive advantage; not-for-profits find it harder to fulfill their mission; religious denominations lose the trust and confidence of their followers; and nations diminish their ability to protect citizens and achieve national security goals.

One reason some leaders misunderstand communication is that they think they’re already good at it. They’ve been speaking since before they were one year old; reading since age four or five; writing soon after that. Unlike just about every other discipline leaders have had to master, they’ve been communicating their whole lives. It seemed to be no big deal. Just as a fish is unaware of the water it swims in, leaders often are unaware of their own communication abilities, or their lack thereof.

We may be great at communicating from me to him or them, but where do we stand when it comes to responding to that him or them? How do you feel when you ask an individual a question and they do not respond? You may ask them again, because you think they didn’t hear you and still no response. You think, maybe they don’t understand the question, so you rephrase it and still no response. You then raise your voice to see if you have their attention and they still ignore your question! You become frustrated and feel handicapped because you really are seeking to communicate and in so doing build a relationship through communication with that person. The problem is that communication takes two!! We can’t not communicate. The very attempt not to communicate communicates something. We can prioritize when and how we will respond, but to neglect continuous appeals for communication can lead to demonstrating a lack of respect or stating that the one seeking a response has no value to you.

As leaders, we must follow the example of Jesus Christ and understand that communication is more than answering a question, rather more deeply, it is all about building relationships. The two most important types of communication are between man and God and between human beings. Communication is more than just our ability to talk, but also to listen and then respond.

God’s word gives us valuable insights into how we should speak to, respond, and treat one another. As Christians we should seek to be a blessing to everyone that we come into contact with. Our actions can be seen as a reflection of what is in our hearts, so we should constantly be filling our hearts, minds and our actions with what is best. The apostle Paul encourages us in this way, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). If we follow God’s word, then our communication and relationships with others will not only improve but we will have favor and be blessed.