Email Leadership

Email: Keep it Sweet & Simple

How many messages are in your inbox? Do you sort, file, delete and respond daily? Many aspects of life and work are dealt with via email; what about leadership? When leaders need to communicate to give direction, make decisions, or in other ways to relate to colleagues, is email appropriate? Maybe you have received email from a supervisor or colleague that made your day—or, just the opposite, crushed you. Conversely, you may have sent those same types of emails!

Email Can Be a Useful Tool for Leaders

Email in the context of leadership is useful when it’s carefully crafted in style, vocabulary, length, and purpose. Create a direct subject line, greet the recipient by name; take time to choose accurate and respectful words, keep it under 200 words, and make sure the purpose is clear. Check out a basic email etiquette resource, such as Here are principles to remember.

When to use Email

Email is fine for:

  • Distributing information to a large number of people quickly.
  • Delivering electronic documents.
  • Establishing a “paper trail” of communication when required.
  • Getting in touch with someone who is not readily available by phone or in person for brief one on one exchange.

When Not to Use Email

However, email is not appropriate for long, complicated issues that require extended discussion. Do not handle confidential matters via email because this medium is never private. One does not control where and when the message goes after clicking the “send” button. Also, if you wouldn’t say it to a person face to face, don’t say it in an email message. Emotionally charged messages are often misconstrued and can lead to serious consequences. Email is admissible evidence in a court of law.

Email Tips for Leaders

It’s easy to see how email can “backfire” on a leader—after all, there’s so much that can be misunderstood or inadvertently left out!

  • Be intentional. Craft your message well. Give careful consideration to your choice of words. Get to the point at the beginning of the message and use the remainder to supply more information.
  •  Beware of messages received late in the day marked “urgent”—you don’t need to respond immediately! Schedule a time early in the day to write or respond to messages that require your opinion, decision or authorization.
  • Give yourself time to calm down before responding to an email that causes you anxiety or anger. Often, it is best to address issues push your emotional buttons with a conversation in person or by phone. If you must respond with an email, craft a short and kind response that addresses the issue and not the sender.  Save the message for a time. Re-read and revise. Repeat the process if needed.

When using email, leaders should keep their messages sweet, simple, and to the point. Ask yourself, “Am I 100% comfortable with I am saying here?” Only then should you click “send”.