Effective Leadership by Spoken Word
People all over the world have difficulties with how they talk and act with each other, and nobody can seem to avoid falling into the inevitable pit of problematic connections with their bosses, employees, friends, parents, and even spouses. With that, some people will get angry, frustrated, and sad when trying to work with the people around them. They feel, at times, as if they have no control over situations and become upset with the relationship they are trying to build or maintain. All this information then poses the very important question of: What is society missing when it comes to leading and communicating with others? Communication, in all its extensive forms, is the most crucial aspect of effective leadership, due to the way society has evolved to value and respond to the quality of personal interaction and relationships; in turn, promoting an individual’s responsiveness, motivation, willingness, and overall comprehensive connection and understanding of the task at hand.
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Society has associated leadership with one place: their job. The workplace and the way workers interact with individuals in their work environment is extremely important to people. The way someone works, whether efficiently or ineffectively, could make or break careers; this is common knowledge. The less familiar aspect is the way someone chooses to act and speak; this directly affects the way people work, and how others around them work. There are proper ways to interact with co-workers or subordinates, and this affects how powerful the work ethic will be in the establishment, and overall how well the establishment will be run. In the modern world, there is simply no way for a workplace to operate without efficient communication throughout the entire organization. The style of speaking with workers, clients, and managers, must be direct and have a tone of care and understanding. Tone is imperative in the workplace; it displays that the employee is applying their personal life values, such as honesty, compassion, and trustworthiness. This is important because the company can rely on people for different things based on the knowledge of their values; it promotes not only organizational growth, but personal growth as well. There is no doubt that communication affects customers, the management team, and the executives as a whole (Slind; Groysberg).
As previously stated, values are important in all aspects of leadership and interaction. One communicative value that makes an outstanding leader in the workplace is a high emotional intelligence. To have a high emotional intelligence means that the leader will be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and use them to improve the establishment. They are empathetic, meaning they can understand what others (in this case: workers) are going through and with that are more equipped to address varying difficult situations. In addition to that, a communicative leader is able to be engaging. They can learn about others by building a relationship on a personal level and keep attention on not only their work but others’ well-being. These characteristics make what is called an interactive leader. Interactive leaders have the ability to be confident, without being egotistical. This means doing the job with a healthy self-esteem and awareness without putting other employees down. They also accept feedback appreciatively. To do this requires the desire to improve themselves as well, instead of telling everyone else the areas they need to grow in, without self-evaluating. These types of leaders are always focused on the growth of everyone in the workplace, not simply the growth of a select few (Davenport).
Another quality necessary to be a proper communicator is to have integrity. Integrity means, “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values” (“Integrity”). Sticking to a code of values has to do with being open with people which is especially important for a company to thrive. Being honest and transparent with people in the workplace is essential to an organization’s success. People absolutely hate being lied to or feeling cheated, so being transparent with people will keep them wanting to come back to work and enjoy what they do. Without transparency, society would struggle with trust and relationships, as well as experiencing many other issues(Davenport). It will affect how someone may interact with clients, how they interact with others, and what employers and colleagues say and think about you. A popular example of dishonesty in business was by Robert Vesco who was charged with embezzlement, theft of funds placed in one’s trust. Embezzlement is one of the highest dishonesty crimes in business, and when Vesco was caught, he fled to Cuba to attempt escaping his charges. He was caught by the Cuban government and sentenced to 13 years in prison for further fraud. He later died at the age of 71 (Cushman). This deceitfulness is just one example of the many things that can go wrong when being dishonest in business.
In the workplace, communication is key to good business. Treating others how they deserve to be treated and listening to them is extremely important. If this doesn’t happen, employees and customers will be lost. Servitude is an effective way to communicate with subordinates to show them they are necessary to keep the organization running properly. The inverse pyramid of service, from The Servant Leadership Training Course is a perfect example of service in the workforce (see fig. 1). The CEO of the company serves others as much as possible, leading the executive team to serve the employees, and the employees to do the same to the customers. The customer takes up the largest portion of the pyramid and are at the top because they are the most important people to serve.
Fig. 1. Hagler, Ty. “Servant Leadership and the Inverted Pyramid.” Trig | Explore – Prototype – Build, trig.com/tangents/2018/4/23/leadership-and-the-inverted-pyramid.
Furthermore, observing what differences corporations and businesses have used in their communication styles, in the past versus recent years, shows a great deal of how conversation has shifted to the realm of empathetic understanding and advancing the ethics of the worker. The corporate style of communication has been based on tradition and formality, which has proven ineffective to the modern-day individual. Progressing in the field of interaction in the workplace not only makes the job easier and more effective, but it also paves the way for an overall better life because of the individual’s comprehension and application of communication skills outside of the organization.
In the past, a more formal and directive tone has been used to get the job done. Information was passed down from the top of the corporate chain, usually the CEO or board of trustees, down the line until it reached the bottom, whomever that may be (i.e. sales associate, factory worker, or anyone who was considered an average laborer) (Hunter). Nowadays, this does not work because employees have labor rights that protect and aid them when necessary. Prior to these rights, there was practically nothing to provide for the worker, and most of them did not have a say in what they did, what they were going to do, and how they did it. An example of this is the coal strike of 1902, the first labor strike that was intervened by the United States Federal Government. The mediation of a large corporation and its workers by the government was a huge stepping stone for workers all over the country for two reasons: a) they received security when at their jobs and moved towards higher wages, safer conditions, and injury compensation, and b) began the evolution of the workplace into a setting in which relationships were built, connections were made, and communication was key. The coal strike of 1902 was a frightening time for many that lived through it, but it was merely a checkpoint to the creation of a newer society built on efficiency (“U.S. Department of Labor”).
From then on, communication began to morph into something greater, and continues to change as the world adapts to a more emotionally aware connection that people experience today. Currently, the corporate communication style in most companies is becoming more direct and personal. Instead of CEOs telling the dominant managers and having them pass down information, some will even talk to the front-line employees individually. An excellent illustration of direct communication was embodied in former CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher. He was an empathetic leader whose style valued trust and authenticity, two very important qualities in a communicative leader, and even took it to the extent of emailing every single employee himself, instead of having one of his “higher-ups” do it for him. The most important thing about the emails he sent was that in the closing of the email he signed, “LUV, Herb Kelleher.” Those simple words, coming first-hand from the CEO, had an immense effect on the way Southwest employees performed on the job. Southwest Airlines works in such a way that they want to be transparent with not only the customers but the employees as well, hence their slogan, “Transfarency.” They are an extremely effective company in what they do for the people, and how they do it, and it all started with a leader who had the communication skills to do the job the right way. All the work that individuals such as Kelleher have done proves that communication is necessary to the work life, which will also transition into their everyday lives (Gallo; Hunter).
Along with the work environment, communication is needed in other aspects of life, for instance: the family. Knowing when and how to communicate with family members is essential because of the structure of the family. In the typical family, there is a mother and/or father with a child or multiple children. The parents are expected to hold boundaries with their children, and they have the right to respond how they choose. The children are expected to communicate to the parent(s) when they are struggling, whether it involves the parent(s) or not. However, that is not always the case, and this is where people such as therapists, psychiatrists, and other specialists step in to support families. Maintaining the ability to talk interactively with family members will keep the family progressing. The same experiences, values, and expectations in terms of communication are also helpful in the family, the only difference is the approach. Renowned author, Stephen R. Covey, has provided widely accepted forms of proper communication in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and these all apply to family life. In part three of the book, Covey discusses different types of situations (Covey). The most important situation being the win-win. The whole point of communicating and leading is to always want a win-win situation. It is about figuring out what works best for both parties involved. A win-win situation means that both parties work out and talk through a difficulty. They can resolve the issue and walk away from the situation with a better mindset and part of what they wanted in the first place. Also, in part three, Covey speaks about the sixth habit, which he titles, Synergize. In the chapter, there is a chart that displays the levels of communication shown below (see fig. 2).
Fig. 2. Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. FranklinCovey Co., 2016.
This graph has a few different parts that show Covey’s levels of communication. If a relationship in a family has low trust or cooperation, communication will be defensive and closed off. The relationship will be stagnant, which leaves opportunity to affect the rest of the family in a negative way. The family will then spiral into a dysfunctional environment for everyone in it. When at that point, the family will go through an immense struggle to get back to the level of connection that they had before. Lack of communication can hurt and even tear apart families. The next level shows respect, and that is done through compromising. The way effective families function is that parents and their children can make things work out so that both sides of an argument or misunderstanding are able to come to a conclusion that works out to some degree. This is a step in a positive direction for families working towards bettering their communicative skills and improving their family’s life. The last level contains high trust and cooperation marks, and is called, Synergistic. At this point, there is little to no defensiveness or attacking conversation. The family is therefore built on a system of understanding and the ability to have conflicts resolved in a way that both parties leave with a positive mindset. These levels of communication provide structure for the family; they can assess where they are on the graph and what they can do to improve their situation. The surface level answer is simple: develop better communication skills.
Revamping communication is a lot more difficult than many would expect though. There is a multitude of different aspects involving communication, and conversation is frankly a small portion of it. “A University of Pennsylvania study reported that the majority of communication is transmitted non-verbally. 70% of communication is body language, 23% is voice tone and inflection, and only 7% is your spoken words! The goal is to have your non-verbal message match your verbal message” (“The Art of Communication”). This information provides a starting point for those who want to make their communication more effective. Not many people know this information, however it is still prominent in everyday life. When in conversation, those involved can recognize when others are experiencing emotions simply by looking at them. There is a lot that goes into how people view others, and their nonverbal communication speaks just as loud, if not louder, than spoken word. “We put more weight on nonverbal communication when determining a person’s credibility. For example, if a classmate delivers a speech… but her nonverbal is poor (her voice is monotone, she avoids eye contact, she fidgets), she will likely not be viewed as credible” (“Nonverbal Communication”).
Communication in all is a very abstract concept, the main reason being is no one can perfect their communication; they can only improve. With all of the different aspects of communication, the best one can do is to discover what works for them. Communication varies with everyone, and the main goal is to find out how to communicate to others in the best way possible. Let that be through compassion and kindness, or sternness and guidance, something works for everyone. People all across the world can coexist, communication needs to be worked out before anything else to be able to do so. This is what makes life exciting, and how lessons are learned. Overall, communication is key.
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