Leadership communication is a sophisticated and a dynamic process that contributes to influencing employees’ attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, and feelings. Leaders set the tone and the culture for communication in their structured environments. They spend 80% of their time communicating through several media channels such as email, text, phone, social media and face-to-face.
During the pandemic, however, leaders had to use new channels to communicate with their internal and external stakeholders using video conferencing and instant messaging applications. This change has imposed new challenges and opportunities for leadership communication and relationship management. Also, working remotely has both positive and negative effects on employee engagement. Therefore, effective leadership communication is key to keeping staff motivated and engaged in these challenging times.
Effective leadership communication is key to sense-making in organisations. It is how leaders construct the organisational vision into a comprehensible map to create a shared reality. Time, uncertainty and ambiguity play a major role in the sense-making process. Individuals make meaning by drawing from their past experiences; therefore, leaders are required to continuously redefine situations, shift paradigms and test their employees’ underlying assumptions.
Transformational leaders often use information-rich face-to-face channels to communicate with their teams to inspire, energise, direct, and motivate them. They communicate openly and critically understand the motivation behind their words. They anticipate interruptions and interferences through audience analysis and then develop a communication strategy that controls the rhetorical situation and facilitate the effective transmission of the intended message.
Leaders are sense-makers. They can help employees make sense of the situation by clarifying expectations, providing guidelines for remote working and defining the rules of engagement. Time, uncertainty and ambiguity play a major role in the sense-making process and because individuals make meaning by drawing from their past experiences, leaders are required to continuously redefine situations, shift paradigms, test their employees’ underlying assumptions and provide constant reassurance.
There is a positive relationship between leadership styles and employee proactive behaviour. Leaders who fulfill their communication roles by being visible and providing opportunities for a two-way dialogue can achieve higher results by providing support and recognising achievements. This co-creative communication shifts the focus from a top-down approach to a bottom-up exchange of information.
To promote better dialogue, leaders can:
Interpersonal communication competence is essential for effective interpretation, management, and expression of emotions. These skills can be improved through practice and constructive feedback that builds awareness.
(Elham is an Executive Coach and an experienced Learning and Development Specialist with a strong background in facilitating Leadership Communication Development in areas such as Emotional Intelligence, Influence and Public speaking.)
By Elham Hennessey