Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Walking the Talk: The Relationship between Leadership and Communication Competence

Academic journal article Journal of Leadership Studies

Walking the Talk: The Relationship between Leadership and Communication Competence

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

This study suggests that communication competence is a prerequisite for effective leadership. One-hundred fifty-one employees of nine organizations rated their immediate supervisor's communication competence and using a three dimensional integrated model of leadership categorized that supervisor's perceived leadership effectiveness. Each of the leadership dimensions, as well as the model as a whole, was highly correlated with competent communication by the supervisor.

"Jim's the best what we call bosses. When he says it, you know what he means. And he knows what you means. He don't tell you nothing that ain't"

T.C., a 30 year veteran of the underground coal mines of southeast Ohio.

"He walks his talk. He knows what he's saying and you know it too."

A rookie police officer in a large metropolitan Ohio city.

Introduction

This study is in response to the global question, "How are communication and leadership linked?" Members in nine organizations completed self-report instruments that rated their leaders' leadership behavior across three dimensions and their leaders' communication competence across two dimensions. A three-dimensional integrated model of leadership was theoretically and operationally defined as a combination of transactional leadership, transformational leadership, and the quality of exchange in leader-member dyads. This model was used to categorize members' perceptions of leaders' effectiveness and this effectiveness assessment was related to members' perceptions of leaders' communication competence.

Across the nine organizations the same patterns emerged. Each of the leadership dimensions were highly correlated with communication competence. The integrated model, in its full and partial configurations, was a better predictor of communication competence than was any single dimension. The study suggests that communication competence is a prerequisite for effective leadership.

Review of the Literature

Leadership

James MacGregor Burns, an historian and biographer of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and others, presented a study of political leadership in the United States and Europe (Burns, 1978). His goal was to understand political leadership "across cultures and across time" (p. 5).

He defined leadership as "... the reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political, and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers" (p. 425). He identified two basic types of leadership, transactional and transforming.

In transactional leadership, leaders accept the independence of their own and their followers' goals. The leader and the followers exchange goods, services, or less tangible rewards in order to realize their independent goals. The object of this transactional approach "is not a joint effort for persons with common aims acting for the collective interests of followers but a bargain to aid the individual interests of persons or groups going their separate ways" (Burns, p. 425).

The transforming leader goes an additional step and attempts to change the goals of the followers. The new goals are of a higher level in that, once transformed, they represent "the collective or pooled interests of leaders and followers" (Burns, p. 426).

From this historical starting place, Bass (1981) asked if the concept of transactional-transformational leadership could be applied to small groups and organizations. He asked, "Are there analogues in the small group for the intellectual, reform, revolutionary and heroic leaders who transform societies?" (p. 610). He goes on to outline a research agenda to develop an approach to leadership based on the transactional and transformational constructs.

Bass (1985b) reports the findings of several studies on transactional-transformational leadership. …

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