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The impact of leadership communication.

Communication encompasses more than what comes out of the mouth or into the ear. It includes hand, arm, and leg movements; facial expressions; voice tones; and other body gestures. Such nonverbal behavior can send a different meaning or message than the spoken word. Leaders must recognize that success or failure may stem from these actions.

Effective communication represents one of the most significant opportunities and challenges of successful leadership. It can serve as the greatest tool leaders have. James Humes observed in his book The Sir Winston Method, "The difference between mere management and leadership is communication. And that art of communication is the language of leadership." Street sergeants to agency heads hold responsibility for the success or failure of communication in an organization. If the department does not have an effective communication process, laterally and horizontally, chances are that it will fail to successfully provide appropriate services.

Leaders influence the success and tone of communications within their organization. If leaders and leadership teams do not ensure accurate communication flow, they will negatively impact the confidence and trust of their most valuable asset: their people. Trust develops over time, not overnight, but it can be destroyed in a moment. The nature and quality of communication with employees will have an effect on the level of trust they have for the organization. Communication is not just downward; it also is upward and lateral. It involves listening at all levels. Listening entails leaders putting down what they are doing and giving undivided attention while evaluating words and nonverbal actions.

Also, with advancing technology, venues of communication have dramatically changed; agencies now commonly employ e-mails, memorandums, text messages, newsletters, and blogs. However, leaders must evaluate the appropriateness of using these different mediums to communicate their message. For example, upon conclusion of a staff meeting, they should consider the best ways to clearly and effectively deliver an important message. They may consider writing and then personally appearing before employees to effectively answer questions. By being cognizant of verbal and nonverbal messages and remaining flexible, leaders will maximize their success in communicating with their employees.

Daniel W. Ford, J.D., division chief, human resources, for the Orange Country, Florida, Sheriff's Office and leadership fellow with the FBI's Leadership Development Institute, prepared Leadership Spotlight.
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Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Leadership Spotlight
Author:Ford, Daniel W.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:378
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