9 Reasons Why Assertive Communication is Important for New Leaders

Assertive communication is a difficult skill to learn for many new leaders, especially if you’re coming from a more passive style of communication. Not only do you need to master verbal communication strategies, but also the mindset that helps you become as assertive communicator.

Like many people, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with assertive communication. I’d admire people who could clearly express their thoughts and opinions, but when I tried to be assertive, I’d feel guilty, bossy, or too direct.

However, once I started researching about assertive communication and learning how to be assertive in conversations, I discovered that these are normal fears. They’re not signs that I shouldn’t be assertive or that I should go back to a passive style of communicating.

They’re simply obstacles that can and should be worked through in order to become a great assertive communicator.

You see, assertive communication is a journey. It’s a commitment to changing past behaviour that no longer serves you. One day, you might be successful at asserting yourself in difficult situations. Other days, you might fail miserably. That’s okay.

The key is to commit and dedicate yourself to continually improving step by step, or conversation by conversation. If you stick with it, I can guarantee that you will become better at communicating assertively.

To help inspire you to commit to learning how to communicate assertively, take a look at these nine reasons why assertive communication is important for new and emerging leaders.

1. Leaders Who Avoid Communicating Assertively, Don’t Last

New leaders will never succeed if they can’t be assertive when they need to.

You might get promoted to a leadership position and cling on to that position for a little while, but eventually others will discover you’re not capable of handling difficult conversations, challenging decisions or complex situations.

Avoiding situations in which you need to be assertive is not a solution. You need to confront them with confidence like leaders do.

2. Being Assertiveness Makes You Sound More Confident

Many emerging leaders struggle with communicating their ideas, opinions and thoughts in a confident way.

You’re worried about saying the wrong thing in front of others who are more senior and experienced.

This anxiety causes you to get your thoughts muddled and your message to lack confidence.

But when you’re competent in assertive communication, you’ll know the words and sentence structures to use so your confidence immediately shines through.

3. Assertive Leaders Appear More Honest and Transparent

When you know how to communicate assertively, it means that you can openly and honestly share your thoughts, opinions and wants.

You don’t hold back or hide your thoughts from others because you’re fearful of saying the wrong thing or being challenged.

This openness in your communication, makes you come across as more honest and transparent.

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4. You Can Set Boundaries and Say “No” to Unreasonable Requests

Skills in assertive communication give you the power and confidence to set boundaries with others who ask too much of you and say “no” to unreasonable requests.

In leadership, your priority isn’t pleasing other people. It’s making sure that the job/project gets completed and deadlines are met.

Passive communicators can’t do this and as a result, they waste time trying to say “no” in ineffective ways.

Assertive communicators however, can say “no” in an instant if something isn’t in line with their priorities.

5. You Can Make Clear Requests to Delegate Better

New leaders often feel uncomfortable delegating. They’re so used to being the one delegated to, they simply don’t know how to delegate to others.

Requests often come across as passive, indirect and vague. They don’t sound like a leader and the listener often walks away confused as to what they’re supposed to do.

Assertive communication however, forces new leaders to clearly articulate their requests, leaving no room for confusion.

6. Assertiveness Helps You Manage Conflict in Teams

Just like with delegating, new leaders aren’t used to managing conflict in teams.

Neutralising conflict and resolving it takes a unique form of communication that leaders must be able to tap into when required.

Passive communicators would avoid this conflict. Aggressive communicators would latch on to it but let it grow into something unnecessary.

Assertive communicators however, know how to get everyone heard, understood and move toward a solution instead of focusing on the argument at hand.

7. You Can Handle Difficult Conversations Better

If you’re not used to difficult conversations, like many new leaders, you probably avoid them.

Either it’s because you don’t know how to handle them or the idea of conflict makes you so uncomfortable, you simply can’t face it.

But people who can communicate assertively aren‘t afraid of difficult conversations. They know that their opinion matters and they have the right to share their opinion with others.

This allows them to handle difficult conversations with ease and less anxiety than most.

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8. Assertive Communication Helps You Handle a Difficult Boss

Difficult bosses do exist. They could ask too much of you, give you unreasonable deadlines, or use inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.

Nobody likes to handle a difficult boss, but the thing is, assertive communicators do it when they need to.

They can re-establish boundaries, say “no”, and make clear requests for their boss to do or not do something.

Yes, they’ll be uncomfortable, but they don’t let that discomfort stop them from asserting themselves when they need do.

9. Skills in Assertiveness Help You Avoid Burnout

Two areas where many new leaders fail are not being able to say “no” when they need to and delegating tasks to others in their team.

Not being able to say “no” inevitably leads to taking on too much, then overwhelm and overwork.

Not being able to delegate inevitably leads to you doing tasks that others could do, simply because “it’s easier if I just do it myself”.

Both will cause you to burnout.

That’s why all new leaders need to develop skills in assertiveness; so they can prioritise where they spend their time and energy, and where they don’t.

Assertive communication is a critical skill for all new leaders to develop.

You’ll be exposed to situations and conversations that are challenging.

You’ll be asked to do things that aren’t in line with your priorities and goals.

Your job and reputation depend on you being able to handle these situations and assert yourself when you need to.

I hope these nine reasons why assertive communication is important for new leaders have convinced you to start learning this skill.

If you’re ready and want to conquer assertive communication now, then I have some options below that you should look into.

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About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox