Leadership and Communication

“Leadership and Communication. The one cannot be without the other.”

Dr Amanda Hamilton-Attwell
June 2015

Leadership determines the course of the world, of countries and of businesses. The components of that characteristic called “leadership” have been studied and defined by many scholars since the earliest of days and will in future keep on intriguing students in many disciplines. One of the key findings of all these studies has always been that the key to effective leadership is a person’s ability to create understanding amongst stakeholders for their view of the future, of the direction that should be taken.

In other words – the key to leadership is effective communication. The person that has the ability to formulate and communicate their view of the world in a way that will touch the hearts and minds of people, will be the person they will follow. No wonder that Bill Gates said he would spend his last dollar on communication with stakeholders and Winston Churchill said the ability to communicate is the most precious of all skills bestowed on man, to name but two of the many people that pondered on the importance of communication and leadership.

Communication with stakeholders is not an optional extra, and Communication Functions can no longer be the first to be rationalized in hard times. The King III Report made communication with stakeholders a requirement for companies. Since 2010 TowersWatson stressed the role of communication in the financial success of organisations. Their research found that organisations with effective communication with stakeholders deliver a significantly better return in the investment of shareholders, employees are more engaged resulting in better productivity, safety, customer service and a positive organisation climate. Companies without effective communication, without a strategy that aligns communication with the business strategy, were severely punished in the 2010 global financial crisis. Employees and investors stated in no unclear terms that they can deal with bad news but uncertainty and misleading information will not be tolerated.

To conclude, communication is part of DNA of leadership – leaders are authentic in their communication or they are not – they cannot fake it, as much as a short person cannot fake his or her length. Leaders cannot fake honest communication because it is much more than just “talking” to stakeholders. Their attitude towards communication will not only be reflected in their personal communication style, it will be reflected in the performance management systems approved by the leader, the look and feel of the communication platforms they were prepared to allocate resources to.