Every Sunday, The New York Times business section runs a piece called “Corner Office,” interviewing a CEO, generally of small- and medium-sized companies. The CEOs are often surprisingly frank and open, making the column enjoyable reading for anyone with an interest in leadership or management.

A recent interview was with Dawn Lepore, CEO of Drugstore.com, also a director of eBay and The New York Times. CEOs play many roles, just two of which are mentor and boss. Unless a meaningful effort is made at clarity, it can be confusing to subordinates which hat a CEO is wearing.

Ms. Lepore touched on this communication challenge: “We have a little joke where I’ll tell people, a light bulb or a gun. A light bulb means this is just an idea I had, so think about it, see if you think it’s a good one. Either follow up or don’t, but it’s just an idea. A gun is, I want you to do this. People don’t always know if you mean something as just as an idea, or you want them to go do it.”

Closing quotes:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw

“Communication works for those who work at it.” — John Powell

“The quality of our lives equals the quality of our communication, both with others and with ourselves.” — Tony Robbins