Influential communication is one of the key skills effective leaders should have. In order to lead, they have to effectively communicate their message and encourage people to follow (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014). Ruben and Gigliotti (2016) stress that communication is more than an instrument of leadership but a “process of social influence itself” (p. 467). People have been preoccupied with the matter for centuries. As far back as 3,000 BCE, people created documents teaching others to communicate effectively (Ruben & Gigliotti, 2019). Ancient Greek philosophers contributed greatly to the accumulation of knowledge that is still relevant. Harrison and Mühlberg (2014) note that leadership communication entails two major components: language and personality.
Leadership Language: Belief
People tend to disbelief others, especially if these are their bosses. Skepticism has become a characteristic feature of modern people who always try to verify the data they hear (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014). Listeners process information in terms of the contexts that exist or emerge. The context challenge is specifically apparent with the diverse workforce (Fortunato, Gigliotti, & Ruben, 2017). The leader has to understand these contexts and find a way to build trust and make listeners accept and believe. Importantly, Harrison and Mühlberg (2014) emphasize that leaders should always tell the truth as the audience would feel half-truths or lies, which will have an adverse effect on future communication.
Effective communication also depends on the speaker’s ability to choose the right language to make listeners understand the conveyed message. Harrison and Mühlberg (2014) note that people perceive data in a specific way. They tend to decode every message in terms of their own experiences, knowledge, and beliefs. Therefore, leaders should make sure their words would be interpreted in a particular way. A leader’s mindfulness can be instrumental in reaching this goal because this skill helps in identifying the context and choose the most appropriate language (Arendt, Pircher Verdorfer, & Kugler, 2019). It is essential to speak the language that will be intelligible for the target audience.
Feedback enables leaders to understand contexts and develop effective communication strategies. In order to obtain internal feedback, the leader can utilize surveys, interviews, and informal conversations (that must be planned properly) (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014). However, it is also important to collect external feedback to construct broader contexts. This goal can be achieved with the help of social media research, as well as “other online flow” associated with the company (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014, p. 157). It is also acknowledged that millennials need transparency and a constant flow of information. Modern employees require to feel connected and informed, so the leader should communicate effectively to facilitate the emergence of these emotions.
The digital world is a part of human life, as well as organizational performance. Digital instruments have made communication effective and almost immediate. Leaders should employ all possible digital tools when communicating with diverse audiences (Ruben & Gigliotti, 2019). Such conventional means of communication as email can be used, but leaders should not make them dominant. As mentioned above, immediacy is a central feature of contemporary communication (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014). It is necessary to utilize all means of digital communication. In order to build trust, the leaders should provide evidence and logical comments to their critics, modern language has to be employed. It is also important to add links to different types of information to broaden the contexts.
In addition to language, personality is the other component of influential communication. Words are important, but the person who utters them also makes a difference (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014). Leaders have to be visible and spend a lot of time among employees, communicating with them. In this way, the leader will be able to identify existing and potential issues, as well as methods to address them (Clohisy, Yaszemski, & Lipman, 2017). Sharing ideas and developing shared values will contribute to the creation of the contexts that will be understood by the leaders and employees. These clear contexts will be instrumental in choosing the right words and the most appropriate language to communicate messages that will be understood correctly.
When preparing to present, people often focus on specific questions to concentrate on. Harrison and Mühlberg (2014) developed a formula to help leaders in this kind of preparation. Three questions can be seen as a guideline for the presenter who wants to engage the audience and convey the message effectively. The first question the leader has to address is – What? It is necessary to make sure that the message itself is clear and intelligible. So what? – is the second question to be properly considered. The leader should establish the relevance of the message to the audience. Finally, the leader can show the way by addressing the question – Now what? The leader should outline the goal and methods to achieve it, so that employees could follow.
The idea that people perform roles is not new, and it is relevant to presenting. Effective communicators are always “great actors” who are “energetic, empathetic, inspirational, credible, and authentic” (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014, p. 163). Influential communicators are always present and able to handle any unexpected situations. Leaders can reach out by being empathetic and authentic. Effective communication is also associated with expressiveness, so leaders should use their voice, gestures, words, and evidence effectively (Ruben & Gigliotti, 2019). Clearly, leaders should know who they are, their goals, which helps them remain authentic. Authenticity is one of the strongest instruments that help leaders to build trust and inspire people.
The human brain operates in terms of certain rules due to the peculiarities of human perception. It can be difficult for some to perform in front of many people, but certain strategies can help speakers to ensure their success. Harrison and Mühlberg (2014) mention athletes and the way they prepare themselves. Being concentrated is central to effective communication. The presenter should understand the primary goals to be achieved and the messages to be conveyed. The speaker should train before speaking in front of the audience. Each training can start with brief self-support phrases: I am glad to be here, I am glad my audience is here, and “I know what I know” (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014, p. 168). These phrases will help the leader to remain concentrated and relaxed.
Similar to actors on the stage, the presenter should use their body effectively. Eyes and facial expressions are some of the most important elements for the speaker. Expressiveness contributes to effective communication, and people’s face helps them express a plethora of emotions that will help in engaging the audience (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014). Voice is another critical means speakers should utilize effectively in order to achieve the necessary level of expressiveness (Ruben & Gigliotti, 2019). Posture contributes to the creation of the overall image of speakers, their confidence, their intentions. Finally, influential speakers are often in the center, they need to grab people’s attention, so they have to occupy the available space.
Effective presenters and communicators are highly valued in organizations, which makes some companies arrange on-the-job training for employees. It is quite common for a presenter to become a coach for peers. However, this approach is associated with considerable risks and can have adverse effects on the working atmosphere, as well as the overall performance of the organization (Harrison & Mühlberg, 2014). In order to avoid these negative consequences, companies should invite external coaches who will provide feedback, point at weaknesses, and train employees. At the same time, effective speakers should always remain counselors for other employees guiding them and showing ways to be an effective presenter.
Being an effective presenter is an important skill for the leader, since this is the way to inspire and encourage masses. Two major components of leadership are language and personality, which should be taken into account. Leaders should use appropriate language and some traits of their personalities to build trust, create shared values, and influence the audience. Effective communicators have to train on a regular basis, because new and innovative methods are described and used by researchers and practitioners. Organizations should invest in their employees’ training aiming to create effective presenters and leaders who will convey messages effectively and inspire others.
Arendt, J. F. W., Pircher Verdorfer, A., & Kugler, K. G. (2019). Mindfulness and leadership: Communication as a behavioral correlate of leader mindfulness and its effect on follower satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 10.
Clohisy, D. R., Yaszemski, M. J., & Lipman, J. (2017). Leadership, communication, and negotiation across a diverse workforce. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 99(12), 1-5. doi:10.2106/jbjs.16.00792
Fortunato, J. A., Gigliotti, R. A., & Ruben, B. D. (2017). Racial incidents at the University of Missouri. International Journal of Business Communication, 54(2), 199-209. doi:10.1177/2329488416687056
Harrison, E. B., & Mühlberg, J. (2014). Leadership communication: How leaders communicate and how communicators lead in the today’s global enterprise. New York, NY: Business Expert Press.
Ruben, B. D., & Gigliotti, R. A. (2016). Leadership as social influence. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 23(4), 467-479. doi:10.1177/1548051816641876
Ruben, B. D., & Gigliotti, R. A. (2019). Leadership, communication, and social influence. Bingley, England: Emerald Publishing Limited.