Leadership cannot happen without effective communication. As noted by Richard Daft, a Leadership Professor,“leadership means communicating with others in such a way that they are influenced and motivated to perform actions that further common goals and lead toward desired outcomes”. Communication is a process by which information and understanding are transferred between a sender and a receiver, such as between a leader and an employee, husband and wife, doctor and patient, teacher and student, etc.
The leader (sender) initiates a communication by encoding a thought or idea, that is, by selecting symbols (such as words) with which to compose and transmit a message. The channel could be a formal report, a telephone call, an email or text message, or face-to-face conversation. The follower (receiver) decodes the symbols to interpret the meaning of the message.
Encoding and decoding can sometimes cause communication errors because individual differences, knowledge, values, attitudes, and background act as filters and may create “noise” when translating from symbols to meaning.
Employees and supervisors, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and strangers all have communication breakdowns because people can easily misinterpret messages. Feedback is the element of the communication process that enables someone to determine whether the receiver correctly interpreted the message. Feedback occurs when a receiver responds to a leaders’ communication with a return message. Without feedback, the communication cycle is incomplete. Effective communication involves both the transference and the mutual understanding of information.
Individuals have various preferences for both communicating withothers and interpreting the communications from others. Numerous models have been developed which describe how to recognize an individual’s preferred style of communicating and what strategy to use in communicating most effectively with them. Basically, three communication styles have been identified, and they are: Aggressive, Passive and Assertive. Let’s examine each style below.
- Aggressive communication style is adopted by persons who think themselves to be more highly than others – they see themselves to be more superior and always right in what they do. In fact, they do not take the time to listen to others and always monopolize the communication. For this style of communication, the motto is: Stand up for your rights but also violate the rights of others. This group of people is close-minded; they have difficulty seeing the other person’s point of view; poor listeners; and possess a know-it-all attitude.
- The passive communication style is adopted by persons who feel inferior or weak about themselves. Usually, these persons put the rights of others before their own, and thus, minimizing their own self worth. For those who adopts passive style, their motto or belief is usually: don’t express your true feelings; don’t disagree; others have more rights than I do. And this self-defeating attitude makes them to be apologetic, trust others but not self, allows others to make decisions for them, sit on both sides of the fence to avoid conflict, and complains instead of taking action.
- Assertive communication style is adopted by personswho respect both themselves and others, feeling neither superior nor inferior. These peoplestand up for their rights while maintaining respect for the rights of others. Their motto is: “I have rights and so do others”. An assertive communicator believes in himself and that others are valuable. And these intrinsic characteristics make them to be open-minded, confident, non-judgmental, decisive, proactive, realistic in their expectations, and action oriented.
However, research has shown that in practice, few persons communicate exclusively using one single style. Instead, most persons use a mixture of communication styles, such as aggressive-passive. Furthermore, even normally assertive persons might decide to adopt an aggressive or passive style if the situation so warrants. But as leaders, it is important for us to understand how our communication style is interpreted by others to avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings. Someone may ask: are therecases where being passive or aggressive can be justified? The answer is yes! For instance, when a decision has to be made quickly, during emergencies or when you know you’re right and that fact is crucial, then being aggressive canbe necessary.Also on the other hand,when an issue is minor, when emotions are running high and it makes sense to take a break in order to calm down and regain perspective, or when your power is much lower than the other party’s, then it is be expedient to be passive. In general, the goal should be to communicate with assertion and avoid an aggressive or passive style of communication.
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