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Kristen Grimm’s 2024 Top 11 Communication Competencies for Leaders

I am often asked what a leader today needs to know to run an organization that takes full advantage of the power of communication — a communicating organization. Everyone at the organization knows how to communicate effectively about the organization and its priorities, builds trusted relationships with people inside and outside the organization, and knows about and embraces best practices from the new — like artificial intelligence (AI) — to tried and true, like stories.  

Leaders with stellar communication skills know how to: 

  1. Get attention. With AI; new social media platforms like BlueSky and Threads; and phones that can easily make documentaries, there is a lot of noise out there. Leaders know how to take advantage of unexpected opportunities, cut through noise and motivate action (reading suggestion: “Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment” by Daniel Kahneman). 

  1. Disrupt habitual thinking. Most organizations are pushing for new solutions, which means doing things in a new way. Leaders know how to open people up to new ideas and jump them out of well-worn tracks of thinking about things the same way. Rather than push back on solutions, people back them (reading suggestion: “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” Charles Duhie).

  1. Create cultures of trust so radical imagination is possible. Leaders communicate in a way that invites bold ideas and risk-taking (reading suggestion: “Replenishing Trust: Civil Society’s Guide to Reversing the Trust Deficit” by Spitfire).

  1. Use communication not simply to inform but also to shape conversations that demand that problems get solved. Set agendas so that priority audiences act on well-designed solutions (reading suggestion: “The Politics of Common Sense: How Social Movements Use Public Discourse to Change Politics and Win Acceptance” by Deva R. Woodly).

  2. Navigate pesky communication conundrums well. This may include frames and narratives that have plateaued and need a refresh to gain traction with audiences. Or priority audiences may need a sense of agency that overcomes inaction or to progress and build confidence that even if the implementation of a solution is bumpy, the path is the right one to stay on (reading suggestion: “The Narrative Observatory” at Harmony Labs). 

  3. Outsmart disinformation by communicating in ways that preempt the nonsense and reinforce the truth (reading suggestion: “Just Truth” by Spitfire). 

  1. Correct communication don’ts like don’t show poverty porn that features certain kinds of people receiving aid rather than as experts in their own lives or deficit-framing that stereotypes people and reinforces stigma (viewing suggestion: Trabian Shorters on asset-framing). 

  1. Handle rapid response and crisis communication because the leaders know the difference and are prepared for both. There are plans in place, developed with staff, that guide the way (Reading suggestion: “Smart Plan” by Spitfire). 

  1. Conduct high-impact internal communications that get praises from staff and the board alike, keep people well-informed, and help the team feel that it is making a difference and has reasons to be hopeful. 

  1. Use technology ethically to know more about how to engage priority audiences, create compelling communications and have the reach needed for impact.  

  1. Set measures to keep an eye on and see course-correcting as the gift it is. Communications gets better and better, and staff fix what’s not working rather than cover it up. 

For leaders who want to hone skills, Spitfire offers tools and training. The Smart Scan is a good place to start to assess the state of organizational communications. For more hands-on skills, Spitfire is recruiting for our 2024 Executive Training Program where leaders learn top-notch strategic communications skills, like those listed above. Email me at if you want to learn more.     

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 14, 2024 at 08:49 am and is filed under Communication planning and Spitfire culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.