Practicing What You Preach: The Relationship Between Communication Style and Leadership Style

Topic: Leadership
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (SEP 2010)
Article: Leadership = Communication? The Relations of Leaders’ Communication Styles with Leadership Styles, Knowledge Sharing and Leadership Outcomes
Authors: R.E. de Vries, A. Bakker-Pieper, and W. Oostenveld
Reviewed By: Allison B. Siminovsky

There are many marks of a great leader: strength, vision, and communicative abilities among them.  But, despite the similar attributes effective leaders may share, their communication styles can differ substantially.  For instance, while some leaders primarily serve to delegate tasks and oversee the work of their teams, other leaders take a more interpersonal approach, expressing warmth and support for their subordinates.  According to a study by de Vries et al. (2010) shows, leaders’ different communication styles may even predict the type of leader one will become.

The findings suggest that human-oriented leadership styles stem directly from the communication styles of the leaders.  That is, communication does = leadership for leaders with human-oriented leadership styles.  There was much less congruence between communication style and leadership style for task-oriented leaders.  This means that task-oriented leadership is “less communicative” than the human-oriented approach.  Human-oriented leaders were primarily supportive in their interactions, maintaining warm relationships with their subordinates.  Additionally, task-oriented leaders demonstrated more verbal aggressiveness than their peers, with a heavier focus on tasks than friendliness or support.

It is important to note that studies have linked satisfied subordinates with supportive leaders, meaning that a key to success for some leaders could lie in their communication styles. 

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Do You Feel Like I Do?

Topic: Leadership, Job Performance
Publication: The Leadership Quarterly (OCT 2009)
Article: Do you feel what I feel? Mood contagion and leadership outcomes
Authors: S.K. Johnson
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

Everyone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed from time-to-time – and leaders are certainly no exception.

As a recent example, a study by Johnson (2009) shows that followers’ moods are directly impacted by the expressed moods of leaders. This phenomenon is known as mood contagion , which in this case refers to the automatic transfer of moods from leaders to followers. Mood contagion occurs unconsciously and thus employees have little control over it.

First, Johnson demonstrated the mood contagion effect, such that when participants (university students) saw a video of a leader expressing a positive mood, they tended to report positive moods.  Similarly, when participants saw a video of a leader expressing a negative mood, they too tended to report negative moods.

More importantly, participants reporting positive moods outperformed those reporting negative moods on a relevant task (a mock hiring task which related to the content of the videos shown to participants).  Johnson demonstrated that mood contagion was partially responsible for the performance outcomes.  Additionally, leaders who exhibited positive moods in the videos were rated as more charismatic, which was also found to affect follower performance on the task.

Because we are all subject to mood changes, leaders must be aware of how their moods can affect their followers’ performance.  Johnson’s study shows that moods can be highly contagious and can either enhance or damage employee performance.

Johnson, S.K. (2009). Do you feel what I feel? Mood contagion and leadership outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 20, 814-827.