This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.

Startups are an essential driver of economic growth within the market sector, as they contribute to innovation, competition, and new employment opportunities. Distinct from traditional large corporations with brand heritages, startup organizations often rely more on their leaders to communicate and establish a corporate image and reputation. In the context of China, the challenges facing startup leaders are complex since startups are usually seen as a departure from traditional cultural values such as Confucianism and Collectivism. To uncover how leadership communication can help cultivate quality relationships and engage with employees at startups in this unique context, researchers examined how a CEO’s charismatic leadership communication (characterized by envisioning, energizing, and enabling behaviors) helped to nurture quality relationships with the startup and engage startup employees. Further, they also examined the underlying psychological mechanism through which charismatic leadership communication by startup CEOs influences employee relationships and engagement with the startup.

An online survey of 1,027 employees at startups in China was conducted. Participants were 30 years old on average. Females comprised 55% of the respondents. In terms of participant position level, 28% of participants were founding members other than CEOs, 35% were middle-level managers, 26% were lower-level managers, and 12% were entry-level employees. About half (53%) of the startups that the participants were affiliated with had been established for five to 10 years. Information transmission, software and IT services (61%), manufacturing (13%), and scientific research and technology services (6%) were the top three industries identified in the survey.

Key Findings
1.) Startup CEOs’ charismatic leadership communication served as a crucial influencer in cultivating employee-startup relationships and promoting employee engagement.
2.) Startup employees who experienced a harmonious relationship with their employers were more likely to bring passion, energy, and efforts to their work.
3.) By demonstrating their care, confidence, and passion, startup CEOs’ charismatic leadership communication fulfilled employees’ psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness, which subsequently enhanced employees’ perception of quality organization-employee relationships and created an engaged workforce.

Implications for Practice
Startup leaders should 1.) consciously develop their charismatic leadership and communicate vision, passion, and care within the organization in order to motivate, strike a deeper bond, and engage startup employees, and 2.) develop leadership development best practices and specifically highlight the importance of charismatic leadership communication within their organization in order to cultivate effective leadership, engage people, and help them to bring their best to work each day.

Men, L. R., Qin, Y. S., & Mitson, R. (2021). Engaging Startup Employees via Charismatic Leadership Communication: The Importance of Communicating “Vision, Passion, and Care”. International Journal of Business Communication, 23294884211020488.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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