Topic: Leadership and Communication Competence

Author(s), Title and Publication

Flauto, F. J. (1999). Walking the Talk: The Relationship Between Leadership and Communication Competence. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 6(1-2), 86-97.


This study investigated the relationship between supervisors’ communication competence and their leadership style or behavior (i.e., transactional leadership, transformational leadership, the quality of leader-member exchange relationships). Transactional leaders are concerned with personal or group goals, and they promote compliance with rewards and punishments. Transformational leaders pay more attention to the collective interests of both leaders/organizations and employees and seek to enhance employee motivation, morale and performance. The quality of leader-member exchange relationship (LMX) refers to interpersonal exchange relationships between an employee and his or her supervisor.

Employees (151 people) in nine organizations in Ohio, eastern Indiana, northern Kentucky, and western West Virginia participated in a survey; they rated their supervisors’ communication competence and evaluated perceived supervisors’ leadership effectiveness based on a three dimensional leadership model (transactional leadership, transformational leadership, and LMX quality).

The study concluded that communication competence is a prerequisite for effective leadership of any kind. Each of the three leadership styles was highly correlated with supervisors’ communication competence. A good LMX relationship was the strongest single predictor of communication competence, followed by transformational leadership and transactional leadership. The integrated model (all three dimensions) and partial models (any two of the three dimensions) explained more variance in communication competence than did individual dimensions.

Implications for Practice

Different leadership styles have different requirements for communication competence. Supervisors who want to establish favorable exchange relationships with subordinates face higher requirements in their communication skills than those using other forms of leadership. Rather than simply negotiating leader-member contracts, or establishing a common vision, those supervisors need to be more approachable and receptive to employees’ ideas and concerns. Communication practitioners can help by providing front-line managers with relevant communication and listening skills.

Location of Article

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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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