Leadership and Communication: Literature Review

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Introduction

The modern world can be viewed as a highly competitive environment. The increased speed of all processes associated with technological progress, the growing number of opportunities, and the diversification of people’s demands result in the emergence of multiple organizations trying to acquire a competitive advantage and excel over rivals. Under these conditions, tools guaranteeing benefits and helping to enhance the work of units become a top priority. Leadership has always been one of the concepts belonging to this cohort. Strong leaders have been acknowledged and considered fundamental figures driving positive change and helping to attain success. Today, this phenomenon remains relevant; however, it also alters under the influence of forces existing today. The shift of priority towards inclusion, diversity, and tolerance resulted in the reconsideration of communication patterns. For this reason, this literature review focuses on communication issues regarding leadership, failure to communicate, and the role these aspects play in organizations.

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The fundamental role of these concepts in modern organizations cannot be doubted. Multiple researchers emphasize the importance of effective communication for leaders and its role in achieving existing goals. However, the complexity of the modern environment and sophistication of units’ structure demands leaders to cooperate and communicate on numerous levels. It implies individual, team, and organizational tasks along with the necessity to collaborate with partners and resolve arising issues. At the same time, effective communication demands commitment, discipline, clarity, and knowledge (West & Turner, 2020). For this reason, although the role of this tool is widely accepted and much attention is devoted to its improvement, failure to communicate and communication, in general, remains one of the most relevant leadership issues. That is why the proposed literature review focuses on researching these broad concepts, the discovery of correlations between them, ways to improve, and how they affect the work of units.

Considering the research topic, the important terms include leadership, theories, and styles, communication, its types. Furthermore, an analysis of these two concepts will be performed regarding the functioning of units, which means that the concept of organizational culture as one dependent on the previous two and influences performance. The literature review will also touch upon the ideas of diversity, inclusion, and tolerance as factors vital for effective communication and leadership.

Altogether, the literature review aims to investigate the concept of leadership and the problem of communication linked to it. It presupposes defining these two ideas, in-depth discussion of their types, and outlining the correlation between them. Moreover, organizational culture and performance will be discussed regarding the two discussed phenomena as they depend on the effectiveness of selected leadership methods and approaches. The review is conducted to enhance the understanding of the role the aspect plays in modern organizations and analyze the most common communication problems to resolve them.

Background

The existing body of literature accepts the importance of leadership and its cultivation for the rise of organizations. Multiple authors are sure that the ability of a unit to evolve and generate a competitive advantage critically depends on top managers’ decisions, planning, and solutions (Dugan, 2017). It means that leaders become responsible for the stable work and the organization’s success. At the same time, the failure might result in critical outcomes and the inability to compete with rivals (Maxwell, 2019). Under these conditions, much attention is given to investigating the most important leadership issues in an attempt to increase the effectiveness of decision-making, strategic planning, and cooperation between workers. Among vital leadership tools, communication is viewed as the most powerful one (Northouse, 2020). It can either facilitate or hinder the rise of a company, depending on the applicability of the selected model and its power. Under these conditions, communication failure and the necessity to avoid it become one of the major themes of the leadership field.

Leadership and Styles

The scope of the discussed problem is evidenced by the existence of multiple definitions of the term. Numerous authors offer their own vision modified regarding the context and topical issues. Thus, the generalized one defines leadership as the science or art of motivating and managing a group of individuals, their organizing and supervising to achieve a particular goal (Dugan, 2017). It can also mean focusing colleagues’ efforts on existing strategic aims and the company’s needs. From another perspective, leadership is viewed as setting and achieving goals, resolving problems and conflicts, and rewarding the most effective workers (Northouse, 2020). That is why top managers need tools that will help to share their visions, explain existing tasks, and outline methods that can be employed to accomplish them. Communication becomes one of the most effective approaches to support leaders’ decisions and their activities.

Leadership style is also a broad term that includes multiple definitions and concepts. Dugan (2017) views it as a set of characteristic behaviors employed when directing, motivating, guiding, and managing groups of people. Additionally, Northouse (2021) is sure that leadership style depends on the selected communication method as it predetermines the nature of relations between an employee and employer, delegation, and distribution of authority. Various authors distinguish multiple leadership styles regarding the type of dominant behavior. Northouse (2020) outlines authoritarian, democratic, laissez-faire, and transformational leadership. As stated previously, the differences mainly come from the type of delegation, cooperation, and communication. For instance, authoritarian leaders provide clear instructions on what should be done, when the task should be accomplished, and what methods to use (Northouse, 2020). It is also focused on command and control, which also presupposes strict hierarchy and communication strategies, excluding the possibility of discussions or rejections. The effectiveness of the approach depends on the situation.

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Democratic leadership style rests on the assumption that all group members have the right to participate in the decision-making process and make their contribution to the development of a unit. Northouse (2020) views it as the most effective strategy for promoting better engagement and motivation among employees. However, the outcomes critically depend on how effective a leader uses communication and his/her ability to explain the existing tasks. The poor level of this skill and the lack of experience might result in confusion, incorrect understanding of current goals, and an inability to cooperate. The correlation between the effectiveness of leadership style and communication patterns becomes evidence in this case.

Laissez-faire or delegative leadership presupposes increased freedom for all team members. Such leaders leave the decision-making process up to employees, observing their work and achievements (Northouse, 2020). The given method is mostly applicable to situations when qualified experts comprise the majority of a group and can act without any guidance or supervision. However, Northouse (2021) assumes that exercising this strategy demands developed diplomatic and negotiation skills, which is impossible to achieve with poor communication. Poorly defined roles and the lack of motivation are common issues linked to laissez-fair leadership styles with weak leaders. They result in reduced effectiveness and the inability to achieve existing goals.

Finally, transformational leadership is also viewed as an effective style that can provide multiple benefits to modern organizations. The central feature is the attempt to achieve current goals by helping all group members to fulfill their potential and develop personal and professional skills (Ausmus, 2021). Such leaders should also be emotionally intelligent, energetic, passionate, and caring (Ausmus, 2021). These skills are vital for promoting higher performance, improved group satisfaction, and devotion (Ausmus, 2021). However, research conducted by Ausmus (2021) shows that transformational leaders with better communication skills have enhanced results compared to other leaders using the same strategy. It is explained by the fact that to assist an individual in his/her personal and professional evolution, a leader should acquire an improved understanding of the current self-actualization needs (Ausmus, 2021). The best way to get this information is through private communication and sharing. For this reason, leaders should be good psychologists and speakers involving people in open dialogue.

The choice of leadership style directly impacts the team’s performance and its ability to achieve the current goals. Johnson (2018) says that the failure to select the most applicable strategy is crucial for the collective as it will stop in its evolution. The inability to consider existing peculiarities will result in stagnation, barriers to personal and professional growth, and decreased motivation (Johnson, 2018). On the contrary, leaders who employ a sufficient approach can demonstrate better results and help employees to evolve. The existing literature proves the correlation between team performance and alignment and leadership styles. However, the dependence of these approaches on communication skills leads to the necessity to investigate this concept and its role in the discussed problem.

Communication, Diversity, and Strategies

The existing body of literature also offers multiple definitions of communication. For instance, Griffin et al. (2018) define it as the act of using words, sounds, behaviors, or experiences to share information, exchange ideas, and express ideas, thoughts, commands, and feelings. However, regarding the sphere of leadership, it is possible to narrow the definition of the concept. Johnson (2018) says that leadership communications include messages linked to the company culture, organization, and core values. They are critically important for employees, customers, strategic partners, media, and leaders (Johnson, 2018). For this reason, a leader becomes responsible for improving his/her behaviors and experiences to communicate with all stakeholders and ensure they have a correct vision of the current situation and how they should act to improve it. Otherwise, there is a high risk of failure and the inability to cultivate the appropriate organizational culture vital for attaining existing goals.

Speaking about communication as a leadership tool, numerous specialists emphasize its ability to promote changes that are relevant to the modern environment and context. For instance, Daft (2015) emphasizes the exceptional role of communication in managing organizational diversity. Effective patterns guarantee that individuals with different backgrounds, religions, communities, and age groups have a common vision and do not have problems with cooperation (Ugheoke, 2021). It means that the positive ambiance in a unit can be cultivated by leaders through sufficient communication strategies. Furthermore, inclusion, or provision of equal access and opportunities to all people, also depends on communication patterns as it is a leader’s task to ensure no barriers or discriminative patterns infringe basic human rights (Harrison, 2014). Under these conditions, communication is an effective management tool aimed at clarifying multiple issues arising in the course of interaction between various stakeholders. Its practical use ensures better results and higher diversity rates, along with the focus on desired outcomes.

Traditionally, researchers distinguish the five basic types of communication used in all spheres. These are verbal, non-verbal, written, and visual forms and listening (Harrison, 2014). The given definition implies the method used for sharing ideas and transmitting information to other individuals. People can use words, gestures, and images to ensure the appropriate understanding and readiness to cooperate (Ruben & Gigliotti, 2016). At the same time, speaking of leadership, researchers outline that specific approaches to sharing information should be discussed. For instance, effective leadership communication demands openness, clarity, trust, and inspiration (Butchibabu et al., 2016). All these aspects can be found in the basic types mentioned above. Moreover, the leadership styles should be aligned with methods to communicate to avoid misunderstandings. It means that active listening, as one of the possible strategies, cannot be useful for authoritative styles, and, on the contrary, using commands as the dominant approach will decrease the effectiveness of the democratic framework (Butchibabu et al., 2016). Under these conditions, the choice of the method critically influences leadership patterns and results.

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Communication and Performance

As one of the most useful leadership tools, communication is also viewed as one of the factors directly affecting performance. Littlejohn et al. (2016) are sure that effective speaking and listening are vital for the stable functioning of organizations, while a lack or ineffective communication can promote employee frustration, reduced productivity, issues with motivation, and higher burnout and turnover rates (Ruben & Gigliotti, 2016). Leaders with inappropriate communication skills cannot manage teams effectively and fail. The direct correlation between communication and performance is also evidenced by (Schein & Schein, 2016), who views it as a two-way process, presupposing not only informing employees about the current goals but acquiring feedback from them to establish the basis for future growth. Otherwise, the inability to consider all factors influencing teams will result in failure and decreased effectiveness of various units. These ideas prove the fundamental role of communication and its importance for leadership and establishing the climate within a group.

Leadership, Communication, and Organizational Culture

As stated previously, communication is vital for establishing the climate within an organization and shaping appropriate values. For this reason, discussing leadership and central problems associated with sharing information, it is critical to mention organizational culture. Daft (2015) viewed it as norms, values, beliefs, and perspectives common for all members of a team and shared with new workers to impact their decision-making and ensure they perform tasks following established patterns. Creating the culture is a prolonged and complex process depending on leaders and their ability to communicate with subordinates (Capper, 2018). For instance, Men and Sung (2019) are sure that sustaining the desired culture requires continuous communication, symmetrical partnership, and cooperation. Employees having a chance to discuss their problems with leaders are more satisfied with their role and are motivated to work better (Men & Sung, 2019). It means that leaders acquire the critically important task of supporting and cultivating the existing organizational culture by using appropriate communication tools and strategies.

At the same time, the failure to communicate might have multiple short and long-term effects on organizations. First of all, it results in the impossibility of sustaining the existing organizational culture and value system (Capper, 2018). It might deteriorate workers’ devotion, engagement, and performance levels. Moreover, failing to share ideas can influence the workplace dynamic as employees will suffer from a lack of supervision, guidance, and support (Collyer, 2016). A leader’s inability to apply appropriate communication skills can also result in a growing number of conflicts between specialists due to the poor delegation or distribution of authority. Finally, Collyer (2016) says that the failure to communicate might remain unrevealed and result in the accumulation of problems, which becomes more dangerous for a unit and might precondition its collapse. Leaders who see the reduction in their communication skills should be ready to analyze the factors affecting them and eliminate the primary causes of this situation (Gochhayat et al., 2017). Otherwise, a systemic problem can emerge, and radical and costly measures might be needed to improve the situation.

Another significant concern linked to the failure to communicate is the growing turnover and burnout rates among workers. For instance, analyzing the work of various units in the healthcare setting characterized by a high level of stress, Schein and Schein (2016) concluded that nurses who were deprived of the chance to discuss their problems with supervisors or top managers had higher burnout rates. Furthermore, hospitals with weak leaders and a lack of sharing suffer from higher turnover rates and understaffing (Schein & Schein, 2016). Using this information, it is possible to assume that failure to communicate among leaders results in the accumulation of stress levels and growing dissatisfaction, which are central causes of burnout and the desire to find another job (Schein & Schein, 2016). These adverse effects are critical for organizations as they reduce chances for success and precondition the emergence of new issues with finding specialists and accomplishing existing tasks.

It also means that leaders become responsible for managing turnover rates by selecting appropriate communication styles and strategies. For instance, about 25% of all voluntary discharges could have been prevented by private conversations or discussions of problems affecting a person at the moment (Mikkelson et al., 2019). It means that the leader’s lack of attention to detail and inability to collect information by using communication have adverse effects on staff and precondition their reduced desire to work. It also introduces the idea that by resolving communication issues, leaders become more effective in managing such problems as high burnout and turnover rate, which also positively affect units and their results (Mikkelson et al., 2019). From this perspective, discussing barriers to effective cooperation and data sharing is vital for their eliminating and establishing a better environment within a unit.

Leadership and Communication and Performance Improvement

The critical importance of communication issues for leadership is also evidenced by the fact that most researchers are sure that improvement of one aspect will lead to corresponding changes in another one. For instance, Schein and Schein (2016) outline the necessity to develop outstanding communication skills as the key to becoming a more effective manager and organizing the work of a unit. Furthermore, good leaders should prioritize their communication skills as they are key to problem resolution, conflict management, and creativity (Schein & Schein, 2016). Schoeneborn et al. (2019) recommend improving leadership through working on current information exchange strategies and listening skills. It will help to acquire additional information about employees and provide appropriate and timely responses, which is one of the critical competencies of an effective leader. Furthermore, by mastering practical communication strategies and emotional intelligence, leaders can acquire new methods to interact with employees. Under these conditions, communication can be seen as a way to improve leadership skills and competencies.

At the same time, the direct correlation between communication and performance mentioned above means that by eliminating problems in this sphere, it is possible to attain better results and help a unit evolve. Joseph and Kibera (2019) use the example of financial institutions to show that the positive alterations in the organizational culture help to cultivate better performance and results. The author states that a leader’s contribution is one of the most important factors for facilitating alteration and achieving next-level performance (Joseph & Kibera, 2019). For this reason, by shifting towards more effective communication strategies and developing specific skills, leaders can create the basis for new performance levels. This factor is critical for discussing the correlation between these two factors, as it shows the necessity to focus on particular issues and resolve them to ensure there are no barriers to moving forward and aligning the practical and working model of collaboration between employees.

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From another perspective, not only leaders should be concerned about communication and the ability to share information. For instance, McClellan (2021) assumes that training employees and their listening and sharing skills are also essential for modern organizations. First, it can help boost performance and overcome barriers preventing colleagues from exchanging information or facts (Walker, 2021). Second, modern organizations often need to cultivate new leaders who can lead a unit through turbulent times and help it achieve existing goals (Walker, 2021). Focus on communication will guarantee that new managers will acquire all skills required to collect information about employees and use it to promote positive shifts (Walker, 2021). Under these conditions, communication’s contribution to improving performance through educating employees should also be considered an important concern discussed by the relevant literature and given much attention by researchers.

The Gap in Knowledge

Although the existing literature offers extensive knowledge about leadership and communication issues, there is a certain gap in knowledge that should be mentioned. Thus, many authors admit that communication alters under the impact of technologies and their availability to managers and employees. They mostly focus on positive effects and the opportunity to remain in touch and cooperate from different locations (McClellan, 2021). At the same time, little attention is devoted to adverse effects associated with technological change and the dominance of mediated means of communication (Walker, 2021). However, Walker (2021) is sure that live forms presupposing physical presence cannot be replaced because of their effectiveness and influence of multiple factors, such as eye contact and gestures. Interactions implying technologies can be less persuasive and not so effective in promoting positive change.

For this reason, it is vital to fill in this gap to acquire a clear vision of how leadership and communication are altered today and what issues can emerge. One of the possible ways is the additional research comparing the effectiveness of various means of communication and their ability to foster positive change within organizations. From the current literature review, it is possible to conclude that the authors are sure that innovations can be useful for organizational culture, performance, and communication (Zach, 2016). For this reason, it is vital to look for methods to mitigate the possible effects of technologies and create an environment beneficial for their integration.

Conclusion

Altogether, the provided literature review shows the critical importance of leadership and communication in the work of modern organizations. These aspects influence performance, organizational culture, and cooperation between team members. Although the fundamental role of these elements is acknowledged, there are still some communication issues that might affect the work of organizations. For instance, failures to communicate might increase burnout and turnover rates among employees, reduce their motivation, and deteriorate outcomes. For this reason, it is vital to find ways to eliminate problems in this sphere to create the basis for future improvement.

The literature review also reveals that organizational culture can be mediated by using various communication and leadership strategies. It proves that any organization should be viewed as a complex system consisting of interdependent aspects. The improvement in communication will result in better leadership methods and styles, which, in its turn, will precondition better performance and the ability to attain existing goals. It is vital to continue investigating the problem as some gaps in knowledge should be filled to improve the understanding of how communication influences leadership and eliminate possible problems.

References

Ausmus, B. (2021). The transformational leadership compass: A dynamic coaching system for creating big change. Lioncrest Publishing.

Butchibabu, A., Sparano-Huiban, C., Sonenberg, L., & Shah, J. (2016). Implicit coordination strategies for effective team communication. Human Factors, 58(4), 595–610. Web.

Capper, C. (2018). Organizational theory for equity and diversity: Leading integrated, socially just education. Routledge.

Collyer, S. (2016). Culture, communication, and leadership for projects in dynamic environments. Project Management Journal, 47(6), 111–125. Web.

Daft, R. (2015). Organization theory & design (13th ed.). South-Western College Publishing.

Dugan, J. (2017). Leadership theory: Cultivating critical perspectives. Jossey-Bass.

Griffin, E., Ledbetter, A., & Sparks, G. (2018). A first look at communication theory (10th ed.). McGraw-Hill Education.

Gochhayat, J., Giri, V. N., & Suar, D. (2017). Influence of organizational culture on organizational effectiveness: The mediating role of organizational communication. Global Business Review, 18(3), 691–702. Web.

Harrison, B. (2014). Leadership communications: How leaders communicate and how communicators lead in today’s global enterprise. Business Expert Press.

Johnson, C. (2018). Leadership: A communication perspective (7th ed.). Waveland Press.

Joseph, O. O., & Kibera, F. (2019). Organizational culture and performance: Evidence from microfinance institutions in Kenya. SAGE Open, 9(1). Web.

Littlejohn, S., Foss, K., & Oetzel, J. (2016). Theories of human communication (11th ed.). Waveland Press, Inc.

Maxwell, J. (2019). Leadershift. HarperCollins Leadership.

McClellan, J. G. (2021). Organizational culture, discipline, and the politics of self: Transformation through responsive conversation. International Journal of Business Communication, 58(2), 152–168. Web.

Men, L. R., & Sung, Y. (2019). Shaping corporate character through symmetrical communication: The effects on empl. International Journal of Business Communication. Web.

Mikkelson, A. C., Sloan, D., & Hesse, C. (2019). Relational communication messages and leadership styles in supervisor/employee relationships. International Journal of Business Communication, 56(4), 586–604. Web.

Northouse, P. (2020). Introduction to leadership: Concepts and practice (5th ed.). SAGE Publications.

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Ruben, B. D., & Gigliotti, R. A. (2016). Leadership as social influence: An expanded view of leadership communication theory and practice. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 23(4), 467–479. Web.

Ruben, B. D., & Gigliotti, R. A. (2017). Communication: Sine Qua Non of organizational leadership theory and practice. International Journal of Business Communication, 54(1), 12–30. Web.

Schein, E., & Schein, P. (2016). Organizational culture and leadership (5th ed.). Wiley.

Schoeneborn, D., Kuhn, T. R., & Kärreman, D. (2019). The communicative constitution of organization, organizing, and organizational. Organization Studies, 40(4), 475–496. Web.

Walker, R. (2021). Communication perspectives on organizational culture and organizational identification. International Journal of Business Communication, 58(2), 147–151. Web.

Ugheoke, S. O. (2021). Do organizational culture matter in a managerial role and high-performance achievement? Lessons from Nigeria SMEs. Business Perspectives and Research. Web.

West, R., & Turner, L. (2020). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. McGraw-Hill Education.

Zach, F. (2016). Collaboration for innovation in tourism organizations: Leadership support, innovation formality, and communication. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 40(3), 271–290. Web.

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