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Strategic Leadership Institute

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Leadership Communication: Improve or Fade Away (Part 1/3)

03/01/2011 10:50


During the three minutes that it will take you to read this article, you will most likely be interrupted by a telephone call, a text message or two, an incoming e-mail and perhaps someone entering your office demanding your attention for some or other urgent matter. If you’re one of the world’s 500 million active Facebook users, you could also receive a notification that a contact “posted to your wall”, or if you’re subscribed to Twitter you may get a “tweet” to tell you that someone you know has now left for the airport. Then there’s also the possibility of RSS Feeds and blogs, an incoming fax, or your eye might simply catch the heading of a story in the newspaper you planned to read during lunch. Clearly, to say that at this time in human history we’re suffering from communication overload is like telling people that water is wet – everyone knows it, but there’s not much to be done about it. However, at some point or another – perhaps even within the next five minutes – you’re going to want to be on the “sending” end of some or other communication effort. Whether you’ll be explaining to someone how to rewrite a presentation, send an email, addressing the board of directors, or simply making a phone call, you’re going to expect people to receive, understand and hopefully even respond to your message. Here's PART 1 in a three-part series on leader communication efficiency titled Leadership Communication: Improve or Fade Away. 

PART 1: Key Communication Concepts to Consider 

 If you’re a leader, efficient communication with your followers is not only an expectation; it might be the crucial factor that will determine the eventual success of you and your organization. According to the 2008/2009 Global Leadership Forecast, which contains information collected from 13,700 leaders and HR professionals around the world, an average of 37% of individual leaders fail, either leaving their positions or failing to achieve their goals. Participants ranked shortfalls in interpersonal skills – building relationships, networking, and efficient communication – as the single most important reason why so many leaders fail.

Communicating for Follower Effectiveness


The other side of the coin is that leaders who are efficient communicators are more likely to succeed, largely due to the effect that good communication has on their followers. For instance, studies in different fields have shown strong and conclusive correlations between leaders’ communication competence and their followers’ job satisfaction and job commitment. Job satisfaction is an individual’s positive or negative attitude toward their work and working conditions, which in turn has an important effect on individual performance, productivity, absenteeism, and motivation. This means that followers of leaders who communicate well are generally happier in their jobs, they are more motivated, they perform better, and this results in higher productivity.


Related to this is the concept of self-efficacy – the belief a person or group has their competence to deal with difficult or new tasks and to manage difficulties in challenging situations. A leader wants followers with high self-efficacy as they are more likely to attempt challenging and difficult tasks, they are goal-orientated and they often develop a deep interest and sense of commitment in their work. Once they’ve started a task, people with high self efficacy are persistent and more likely to persevere than people with low self efficacy. Individuals with high self-efficacy are also more motivated and are often high performers. One of the ways in which an individual or a group’s self-efficacy can be improved, is through verbal persuasion – once again a clear leadership communication function.


Research had also shown that effective leader communication results in higher organizational identification in followers. Organizational identification can be defined as the degree to which an individual identifies with an organization’s culture, values and goals. The advantage here is that the closer a follower identifies with the organization; the more likely he or she is to make decisions and behave in manners that benefit the organization. This means that followers with high organizational identification are more loyal to their organizations and can be trusted to act in a manner that would be in the best interest of the organization and the fulfillment of its goals.


The final positive effect of efficient leadership communication I need to mention (there are more), is that it contributes to unity and cohesiveness in groups and teams. As such, cohesiveness refers to the tendency of members in a group to stick together and remain united while pursuing their goals and purposes. Greater cohesiveness and unity in a group or team has several advantages, of which increased individual and group performance is perhaps the most desirable from an organizational perspective. Cohesiveness can be increased by factors such as similarities among members, common encounters, necessity or shared fate, group attraction, member contentment, the size of the group size, self- exposure, trust, acceptance, membership stability, and general leadership. Keeping these factors in mind, leaders can use communication as an all encompassing instrument to increase group cohesiveness by communicating messages that create and sustain cohesion.


In PART 2 of this 3-part series I will discuss communication styles and how leaders can benefit from understanding their followers’ preferred communication style. – Manie Bosman

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