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and communication have a symbiotic relationship. Their connection to one
another is mutually advantageous and inherently important for any individual
responsible for leading. Put into the simplest terms, a leader cannot be
effective at leading others unless they are also effective at communicating
with others. Leaders spend an overwhelming amount of time each
day in some type of communication encounter. And at the same time, a large
number of organizational problems occur as a result of ineffective or
nonexistent communication. This paradox is the precise reason effective
communication is an essential component of professional success. Whether at the
interpersonal, departmental, or organizational level, the key to becoming a
skilled communicator is found in the ability to imagine and share a vision of
success, empower employees to thrive, and provide an example of excellence
through word and action. The following is a theoretical framework for effective
communication by leaders in the workplace, along with recommended practices for
application in real-world situations.  

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Framework for Effective

Every organization needs leadership, as employees need
someone to look to, learn from, and thrive with. In many cases,
the role of the leader is, “regarded as a person with a position of authority
appointed or assuming power to lead an organization regardless of ability”
(Ayub, Manaf, & Hamzah, 2014, p. 503). But for
truly effective leaders, leadership is about communication rather than execution
of tasks. It is about connecting to employees and inspiring them to achieve. As
Burnison (2017) believes, “Effective communication is far more than a one-way
street that starts with the leader” (para. 2). Communication in the workplace
requires members to be engaged and committed to working toward common goals.
Leaders serve as the catalyst of that commitment. A communicative leader is defined as, “someone who engages employees in
dialogue, actively shares and seeks feedback, practices participative decision
making, and is perceived as open and involved” (Johansson, Miller, &
Hamrin, 2014, p. 164). As Kouzes and Posner (2017)
point out, a leadership philosophy focused in communication is, “more inclusive
and more open than what many people have experiences in the past, and it
produces results” (p. 7).

effective leadership is conversational. Groysberg and Slind (2012) acknowledge how, for a
communicative leader to be successful in the 21st century
marketplace, “traditional corporate communication must give way to a
process that is more dynamic and more sophisticated” (p.3). Through their
research, Groysberg and Slind (2012) developed a model of leadership which they
coined “organizational conversation” (p. 4). According to Groysberg and Slind
(2012), “conversational intentionality” (p. 9) is the best way to put
leadership theory into practice and see true results. Conversational
intentionality, “requires leaders to convey strategic principles not just by
asserting them but by explaining them—by generating consent rather than
commanding assent” (Groysberg & Slind, 2012, p. 9). This way, leaders work
with and alongside employees, empowering them to generate the vision and the
logic underlying executive decision making while modeling the behaviors
associated with success and bringing the process full-circle.

modern leadership practices which are more conversational in nature, leaders
achieve, “far more engagement and credibility” (Groysberg & Slind, 2012, p.
4) than their counterparts who engage in traditional bureaucratic top-down
management. These corporate conversations are reflective of a new breed of
employees who feel empowered in the marketplace and are therefore potential
brand ambassadors and thought leaders themselves. Engaging employees in the
communication process through imagining a shared vision of excellence allows
employees to feel valued. And when leaders guide by their own example, they
pave the way for employees to be motivated by their collective achievements
rather than monetary rewards. Overall, effective leadership is practiced
through (1) vision, (2) empowerment, and (3) modeling.


leaders are visionary thinkers, able to, “envision the future and gaze across
the horizon seeing greater opportunities to come” (Kouzes & Posner, 2017,
p. 97). In order to see their ideas come to life, leaders need the
communication skills to be able to relay this vision with constituents. Vision
sharing can be achieved through interpersonal conversations, group
brainstorming, and organization-wide strategic planning alike. The benefits of
idea sharing are multifaceted. According to research by Kouzes and Posner
(2017), leaders who focus on sharing their future goals, “attract followers
more readily, induce more effort and intrinsic motivation from group members,
promote group identification, mobilize collective action, and ultimately
achieve better performance measures of both individual and organization
outcomes” (p. 104). Vision shared among the team can be a powerful motivating
factor for future achievements. This is especially true when incentive
motivation, like monetary raises or bonuses, is inadequate, as is the case in
many nonprofit organizations. In these instances, Florea and Gilmeanu (2016)
suggest non-financial motivations like, “better communication, active
listening, and feedback, or promotion, better career plans, and work groups”
(p. 101) to encourage and stimulate employees. Effective communication
leadership through shared vision helps organizations more forward.


Empowering employees involves the sometimes challenging task
of giving employees autonomy and allowing them to make decisions about their
work independently. The most successful organizations have leaders who, “guide
without force and motivate their teams through praise and empowerment” (Van
Aswegen, 2015, para. 1). As Leviticus (2018) points out, “employees who are
told what to do and how to do it may quickly become disinterested in their
work, which can affect your department’s productivity” (para. 3). To
truly feel empowered in the workplace, people need to be equipped with the
knowledge, skills, and confidence to do their job effectively. Kouzes and
Posner (2017) believe, “exemplary leaders strive to create the conditions that
make flow possible” (p. 234) through regular assessment of employee
capabilities and motivations. By giving
employees authority over their own workplace choices and following up to
provide support, goals will be met during the process of building personal
confidence (Leviticus, 2018). Carnegie suggests several ways to redirect
employees without bringing about resentment, including showing genuine
appreciate for employee performance, talking about one’s own challenges as a
way to establish rapport and level the playing field, and ask questions instead
of giving orders (As cited in Van Aswegen, 2015). Through each interaction,
leaders should use their knowledge of what excites and motivates constituents
in order to help them believe in themselves and achieve measurable objectives.


Leaders set the tone for how employees will act and react. Leviticus
(2018) believes, “leadership involves not only creating rules and policies for
your staff, but providing advice, guidance and inspiration for the people below
you” (para. 5). Likewise, Kouzes and Posner (2017) assert
how, in all organizational interactions, “leaders go first” (201) and allow
others to follow their example. Leaders do not
just tell employees what to do, but also show employees how processes should be
done through their actions and attitudes. Vision and empowerment are important,
but staff members also need someone to emulate (Leviticus, 2018). Chief among
these actions which help to model appropriate behavior is the ability to be seen
as credible by employees. Credibility is established when leaders,
“walk the talk and show your subordinates as well as tell them what to do” (Van
Aswegen, 2015, para. 21). Research by Kouzes and
Posner (2017) shows leaders who, “persist in attaining organizational goals,
promote the organization to outsiders and insiders, and initiate constructive
change in the workplace are much more likely to have direct reports who exhibit
the same behaviors than leaders who don’t set that kind of example” (p. 73). Credibility
can also come from self-disclosure, or the process of, “letting others know
what you stand for, what you value, what you want, what you hope for, and what
you’re willing (and not willing) to do” (p. 201). This action of sharing about
oneself helps humanize interactions between supervisor and subordinate, opening
up lines of communication and connection more fully to build on the trusting
relationship dynamic.


in the workplace is considerably more than a leadership tool or strategy.
Rather, it should be seen as, “an orientation, a world view, a way of
understanding leadership that focuses more broadly on the process of social
influence itself” (Ruben & Gigliotti, 2016, p. 467). Effective leadership
communication lays the foundation for, “creating a strong building based on
information, education, learning, teamwork, training, respect, confidence,
motivation and satisfaction by creating a climate that encourages individual
development and organizational competitiveness” (Flores & Gilmeanu, 2016,
p. 116). By putting into practice the concepts of imagining and sharing vision,
empowering employees, and serving as a role model, leaders can use
communication to build on the effectiveness of individual employees and inspire
achievement in professional endeavors.

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