4 Communication Styles All Leaders Use

By Dr. Mary Kay

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

It’s essential to understand that all leaders’ communication styles are not their personality; it’s simply the way they deliver and process messages.

One of these four communication styles is your language. Can you spot it?

The 4 Communication Styles

the four communication styles
  • Faster-Paced with a Task Priority
  • Faster-Paced with a People Priority
  • Slower-Paced with a People Priority
  • Slower-Paced with a Task Priority

Usually, only two out of ten people are fluent in all four communication styles. Most of us tend to take a little bit from each other and create our unique style. Let’s look at each of these communication styles and think of each as a communication language.

Faster-Paced With a Task Priority

Faster Paced Task communication Style

People who prefer this “language” are task-oriented. They process messages rapidly in task-related language but don’t always catch all the details.

They focus on the bottom right corner of any spreadsheet or contract—where the totals and sums are located. They genuinely are bottom-line communicators.

These are the questions in the heads of fast-paced communicators:

  • What do you want?
  • What do you need?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • How are we doing this?
  • What are the end results?

When engaged in a conversation, they may shoot off rapid-fire queries such as those above to get to the facts.

As a result, they’re perceived as being too abrupt. They process only two to three words per sentence when you’re talking to them. All they hear is the purpose, process, and payoff of your message.

How to connect: These communicators respond best when you talk about challenges, support their ideas, get to the point, show results, and assertively.

Faster-Paced With a People Priority

Fast Paced People Priority Communication Style

This language is very spontaneous. The speaker begins each interaction with a social greeting and chitchat and then transitions to the topic to be discussed.

This type of communication involves asking for ideas and best processes positive statements like targets, goals, and solutions. This language doesn’t like to hear about what’s not working.

Communicators who fall under this category are frequently jumping to conclusions. They will swear that they told you something that never came out of their mouths.

Those who do not process this language tend to view this communication style as fluffy or of little substance.

They leave the conversation thinking:

  • Did they really understand what I was saying?
  • Will they follow through? Is this for real?
  • Where does all this chit-chat come from?

This particular language is the most misunderstood because it does not process negatives.

How to connect: This type responds to favorable recognition. Spend time with them, make them a priority, and involve them in creative projects such as problem-solving. Communicate what you want, not what you don’t like.

Slower-Paced With a People Priority

Slower People People Priority Style

If you can’t quite figure out what type of processor a team member is, then the answer is they probably speak this language. This language is often viewed as very difficult to read because they don’t express themselves well.

They tend to listen too much. Although they are excellent listeners, any strength that is overused runs the risk of becoming a weakness.

Because these people are quiet and reserved, other team members talk over them, and they just let it happen. They rarely ask questions, preferring that someone else be in control of the conversation.

For the most part, the slower-paced people processor keeps quiet and lets others—who don’t deal well with silence—tell them what to do, thus perpetuating the softer image that they already project.

Team members who don’t process in this manner often feel that this communicator is amiable, shy, and passive – someone who doesn’t have much to offer. The question is this communicator’s participation level, which is a common misconception.

How to connect: Because communicators of this language best process stability statements, you can engage them with reassurances such as, “Everything is okay,” “Let’s just start with the first piece,” or “Let’s break this into steps.”

Ask questions about their personal lives or work situation, and let them talk. You can also deal with their intense need for cooperation and harmony by giving them new information first.

Slower-Paced With a Task Priority

Slow Paced Task Priority Style

People who fall under this category like to communicate by e-mail because it gives them time to process messages and study them in advance. They don’t process face-to-face very easily. They prefer to pore over details, facts, figures, and data instead.

If people like this are in sales, they will frequently e-mail the decision-makers in advance and can even close a sale without having to meet with the prospective client face to face.

If this isn’t your language, you may view people like this as distant and feel as though you’re being interrogated every time you interact with them. Because they’re very serious about their interactions, people usually use a social exchange to try to lighten them up. But this is the worst thing you can do. Trying to reach them on a personal level guarantees they may not hear you.

How to connect: The best way to communicate is to give them credit and let them be experts. Know your stuff, and only go face-to-face when there’s a misunderstanding. It’s important to be prepared; whatever you say needs to be accurate.

Don’t ever communicate something to these individuals that you don’t intend to do or that you’re not sure is correct. If you do, you’re guaranteed an instant disconnect.

Are you beginning to see what a major breakthrough this process can be when it comes to the lack of communication in your organization? When you start focusing on others’ communication styles, you will achieve a higher level of communication right away—especially at home!

A President of one of our client companies told us, “It’s really working with my kids. I’m connecting with them better than ever because I present my message with the right pace and priority!”

How Do You Use Your Communication Style to Connect?

If you have ideas about communication styles that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay
Dr. Mary Kay is a business leadership strategist, executive coach, trainer, author, and co-founder of the About Leaders community. She’s consulted with hundreds of companies and trained thousands of leaders. Her Ultimate Leader Success course helps managers become more confident, decisive leaders. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
  • LavenderMusic says:

    Great article! I urgently need this kind of help! Thank you!

  • Dr. Mary Kay Whitaker says:

    Thanks for reading the article. Glad you found the information valuable.

  • Greg Martin says:

    Good post and it was a pleasure reading it. As I read the article I found myself taking a little from each style that I have used before. Although, my primary way to communicate was the Faster-Paced With a Task Priority. Once I started to relate to that style of communication, I wanted to immediately go to the solution part (How to connect). I found it ironic, because that is exactly how you described people who communicate that way function. As someone who has supervised, managed and lead people, I have used every type as describe to communicate with my direct reports which mainly depended on the persons personality, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. One of the sentences that resonated with me was “any strength that is overused runs the risk of becoming a weakness.” It reminded me of a saying I once heard, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Thanks again for the article and sharing your words of wisdom.

  • thank. Good way to classify people on there communication skill.

  • Anand Lakshmanan says:


    Very interesting article. I enjoyed it and find it pretty useful. It is a nice way to categorize people based on the way they communicate.

    I am curious to know the impacts that each category of these people can have, and how they can be mis-interpreted

  • William Lee says:

    Thank for this word/article. I really see myself as well as other in the organization.

    I like to know how to transform each individual from one type to other, or how to let one type of person can learn up other type of communication way.

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