Q: What Makes a Great Leader? A: Communication

I stumbled across an interesting question on Quora today:

“Which makes a better leader, a person who communicates well with other people, or a person who gets the job done?”

While I think the author was hoping people would say that charismatic leaders aren’t as important as specialized professionals/strategists/work horses, the comments surprisingly went in the other direction. And I agree, which is why I added my own answer to the thread.

Below is my response to the question. Let me know what you think of the leadership debate in the comments!

A great leader absolutely needs both skills (communication & execution), but communication is slightly more important, and to explain why, I want to invoke Union Square Venture partner Fred Wilson’s post on what a CEO does (http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2010/08/…

A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy
of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires,
and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is
always enough cash in the bank.

All three tasks rely far more on communication than someone who “gets the job done.” Getting the job in these cases is all about communication.

For a great leader, it’s about maximum impact. It was a better use of FDR’s talents to speak to the public and galvanize them towards the war effort against the Nazi than to be in the strategy room all day planning the next military strike, esp. when he has competent generals with more expertise.

Great leaders know how to recruit talent, and they are willing to delegate to that talent. Great leaders get 100 people to be 2% more efficient, which makes a far greater impact than a CEO taking 20% more of his time developing or creating product.

I feel like this question is slightly skewed towards the belief that communication isn’t as important as execution for great leaders, when the truth is that an organization can get by with a leader who is lazy but can galvanize the troops, while an organization with a voiceless leader is destined to fail.