Leadership is the process by which an individual directs and influences others towards achieving common goals and objectives. These goals may be in reference to an organization, a community or a larger society such as a nation. There are various concepts that are associated with leadership. One of the most important leadership concepts is effective communication. This paper is going to discuss the concept of effective communication in leadership and how it can influence the achievement of goals and objectives. This paper will also discuss president Barrack Obama has portrayed the concept of effective communication leadership.
Leadership and Effective Communication
Communication is the process involved in the transfer and flow of information from one party to another (Clark, 2010). In order for a leader to achieve his/ her vision through people he must communicate his ideas, strategies and vision to his/ her followers. Communication is also necessary for the leader to motivate and inspire his follower to work hard towards achieving the shared visions and goals (Daft, 2008). Similarly, the leader must also receive information and ideas from his follower concerning the goals and objectives. Therefore communication is a very vital process in leadership. There can only be effective communication if the receiver of information is able to understand the ideas that the sender intended to send.
There are various means of communication in any given settings. These range from simple verbal communication to modern technological means of communication such as teleconferencing. In the process of communication there are two important actions that take place; encoding and decoding of information. When communicating the sender encodes the information into a transferable form/ symbol meaning, could be in the form of verbal conversation, telephone call, email, text message or formal report, and then sends it to the receiver. The receiver then has to decode this information so as he can be able to derive meaning from it. This process of encoding and decoding of information sometimes causes problems within a communication setting. How people interpret communication symbols such as words or gestures, is largely influenced by their knowledge, values, beliefs, perceptions and attitudes. Different people have different sets of values, beliefs, knowledge and perceptions and therefore will interpret symbols in different ways. This different ways of interpreting symbols is the greatest source of miscommunication.
Leaders have huge responsibilities in communication. Leaders need to effectively communicate in order to cultivate in their followers, commitment and a common sense of purpose and responsibility towards the set visions and goals (Daft, 2008). Learning, good decision making, prudent problem solving and realization of strategies all rely on the effectiveness of leadership communication. Leaders must communicate through both symbols and their actions. Symbols can be used inform of spoken words or written communication. A leader can give instruction using spoken words. Due to our different ways of interpreting symbols it is not enough to give instructional words or other symbols but the leader must also wait for feedback so as he/ she can know whether the instructions have been understood or not. The purpose of feedback is usually to alter the message so that the intention of the communicator is understood by the recipient (Clark, 2010). Feedback can be verbal such as paraphrasing the words of the sender or non verbal such as nodding of head. A leader can also use written means of communication such as memos, letters, emails and reports among other. A leader can also communicate what he would like to achieve through actions. How leaders conduct themselves or how they perform some of the task will communicate their expectation to their follower without them having to say anything.
A good leadership encourages open communication within the organization (Daft, 2008). A leader that practices open communication should be in a position to ask questions. In modern organization setting information flow is not restricted to top/ down movement but there is also movement of information from bottom to the top of the organization. Leaders are not expected to know everything and effective leaders ask questions in order to get new insights. Good leadership involves asking the right kind of question in order to get new ideas that will be important in achieving the organization’s vision. Asking question also play a role in motivating followers as they will feel valued and that their opinions are appreciated. Another characteristic of an open communication leadership is encouraging is being an active listening. Active listening is the process of listening with a purpose, may be to solve a problem, get directions, share with others, getting others’ feeling among other purposes (Clark, 2010). Active listening by a leader helps to bring satisfaction and motivation among the followers. Active listening also creates a sense of trust between the leader and its followers as it will portray the leader’s sensitivity towards the followers’ conditions. Another characteristic of an effective leader is discernment. This refers to the ability of a leader to detect hidden messages below the surface of behaviors, actions and spoken words (Daft, 2008). There are some employee actions that usually originate from background problems. A good leader should have the ability to discern this problem through analysis of the employees’ actions or words.
A 21st century leader that has nearly perfected the art of effective communication in leadership is Barrack Obama. According to earlier definition, leaders are individuals who are capable of rallying followers behind certain goals or vision. Reflecting on events that transpired before president Obama was election president of United States, there are various things that portray Obama as an effective leader. The above definition indicates that for you to be a leader you must have a clear vision or goals that you would like to achieve. Obama articulated very well his vision for the nation during his campaigns (Corkindale, 2008),. His ability to listen and discern issues raised by the public helped him in formulating his policies that ended up appealing to the people more than his competitor. But what worked for him the most is his competence in communicating his agenda to the public. Through his charisma and eloquence, Obama managed to present his ideas and rally the public behind him that led to his euphoria win in the 2008 election. Even after his election Obama continues to show strong leadership qualities. This is displayed in his ability to rally support of other legislature behind bills that he believes are crucial for the achievement of his vision for the United States. Examples of such bill include the healthcare bill and the bill proposing the economic stimulus package.
Obama leadership skills are also evident on how he handles the country’s foreign affair issues. For a long time the US has been accused of imposing their views on other nations leading to resentment and in extreme cases physical attacks (Sharland, 2009). Obama has since changed United States ways of addressing foreign affairs issues. He has always advocated for words that promote communication and conflicts resolution. In his own words he said “What we want to do is to listen, set aside some of the preconceptions that have existed and have built up over the last several years. And I think if we do that, then there's a possibility at least of achieving some breakthroughs” (Sharland, 2009). Obama foreign affairs policies have restored United States image abroad especially in the Muslim world where much resentment against the country has always existed.
In summary leadership is the process involved in rallying followers behind a vision or goals. One important concept of good leadership is effective communication. For a leader to be able to rally followers behind his vision he/ she must be able to accurately and effectively share his vision with his followers. He must also be able to motivate and inspire his followers into developing responsibility towards the vision.
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Corkindale (2008), The World’s First 21st Century Leader, retrieved on February 2, 2011, from http://blogs.hbr.org/corkindale/2008/11/the_worlds_first_21st_century.html
Daft Richard (20080, The Leadership Experience, 4th Ed, Mason OH: South Western
Sharland (2009), President Barack Obama’s Effective Communication, retrieved on February 2, 2011, from http://www.mediate.com/articles/sharlandA8.cfm