Good communication skills are essential for any leader, but being simple, clear and direct doesn’t guarantee you’ll be understood, says Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

The words leaders say, write and post matter far less than their interpretation, Schrage says. The true test of understanding is how those words are played back. Employees should be able to constructively enhance and advance the CEO’s essential message both inside the enterprise and out.

Ambiguity is the enemy, he says, urging CEOs to establish a “lingua franca” for their organizations to focus and clarify what they seek to accomplish. Creating a “value vocabulary” makes self-organization, motivation and alignment easier so the CEO’s vision can be successfully translated into actions.

Schrage uses the real-world business examples of Microsoft and GE to illustrate his point.

See the full Harvard Business Review article: “Great CEOs See the Importance of Being Understood.”