There are lots of different leadership styles. There’s the inclusive leader, who brings people in to talk and process things. There’s the commander, who gives orders and doesn’t take no for an answer. There’s the passive leader who lets things work themselves out. The list goes on and on. 

Almost every leadership style is effective from time to time, but rarely does the commander or passive leader appeal to all their team members. Each team member likely has a leadership style that they respond to best. The most effective leaders offer personalized leadership to each team member, but that doesn’t mean great leaders have to be chameleons. Rather, they must understand how to lead universally.

Understanding a Leader’s Universal Language

Imagine the commotion it would cause if a manager was passive to some team members, commanding to others, and inclusive to the rest. People would think they were playing favorites or being exclusionary. Personalizing your leadership style to everyone isn’t feasible or practical. 

What is practical, and meaningful, is adopting a leadership style that respects and builds the capacity of everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re at. Recall that a central job of a leader is to communicate and maintain an organization’s core values and norms. 

Rather than communicate uniquely with everyone, effective leaders build off a key ethos and allow it to manifest itself differently with each team member. For example, inspiring one team member might involve a discussion about a new product or service, while inspiration for another colleague comes from a conversation about their family. While the conversation is different, the starting point is the same. 

Skills Every Great Leader Uses to Connect

Leaders speak universally when they rely on simple values and norms, like committing to positive interactions, being kind, truly listening, and demonstrating empathy. When these core interaction metrics are met, you speak a language that everyone respects and responds to. 

Here are three strategies great leaders use to connect when they communicate. 

  1. Assess constantly — You need to be able to assess the state of relationships, systems, and the capacities of others. Evaluating each of these core areas will allow you to relate. The difference comes from a leader who acknowledges to a team member that a system is frustrating, rather than pretending that everything is fine. When you constantly assess, you build your reputation as a leader that’s in touch with what’s going on. 
  2. Facilitate culture — It’s not about barking orders, it’s about curating a culture that focuses on positive relationships, great systems, clear communication, respect, and kindness. 
  3. Discover purposes — Everyone is motivated by different things. Some by money, some by time off, some by more responsibility. Through assessment and establishment of culture, leaders should communicate with team members sincerely and often enough to learn what their purpose is and what motivates them. Such information provides you with opportunities to tee up team members with projects they will knock out of the park. 

Each of these three strategies boils down to a simple truth. People want to feel heard, understood, respected, and valued. Leaders who speak universally from a place of respect ensure every team member receives the personalized attention they deserve.

Learn how you can inspire your teams to speak universally to each other as well. Transform your culture and improve communication by downloading our free resource: The Innovative Leader’s Guide to Transforming Company Culture…Starting with Yourself.