Listening and Leadership

Listening and Leadership

Javier Pagán Castaño (Portsmouth University, UK) and Dolores Garzón Benítez (Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1601-1.ch058
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In this chapter, the authors will focus on three ideas: the connection between the company results and the leader’s listening skills; people as the firm’s most valuable resource; and therefore, internal communication as the key for success and full potential of the company. However, the survey concludes that internal communication is scarce and not always effective since one way communication seems to be the most common form of interaction, even though leaders know the importance and value of their human resources.
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Literature Review

The Key Leadership Skill

Communication is the most important skill a leader must possess; since it occupies 70 to 90 per cent of his/her time (Mintzberg 1973, Ecles & Nohria, 1991). If that same study were done today including e-mail, cell phones, and text messaging, the percentages yielded would be even higher. The total amount of time managers dedicate to communicate emphasizes the importance of having strong communication skills to advance to leadership positions. Mastering leadership communication should be a priority for managers wanting their organizations to consider them as leaders (Deborah J. Barrett, 2006). Without effective communication, a manager accomplishes little. Without effective communication a manager is not an effective leader, and through effective communication, a leader leads.

Communication is the transmission of meaning from one person to another or to a group of people, whether verbally or non verbally. Leaders must pay attention to four elements to become effective communicators: the sender, the medium or channel, the receiver and the context (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Ideal and simple communication process (Source: Own elaboration)


This triangle shows what would be an ideal and simple communication process without miscommunications or misunderstandings. The person, who sends the message, understands the audience (receiver) and the context, selects the most appropriate medium and sends a clear message. On the other hand, the person who receives it understands the message as the sender intended. But in reality, communication resembles some variations, as in Figure 2 (Barret, 2006).

Figure 2.

Real and complex communication process (Source: Barret, 2006)


The complication in communication comes from the interruptions or interferences in that transmission, whether the sender causes them or the receiver. Leadership communication necessitates anticipating all interruptions and interferences through audience analysis and then developing a communication strategy that controls the rhetorical situation and facilitates the effective transmission of the message.

The purpose of the sender is to communicate a thought or idea formulated within their mind. Even though he or she clearly sees the idea, factors like the sender’s current frame of mind, level of communication skills or familiarity with the receiver influence the communication outcome.

A channel of communication is selected, whichever written or oral. Written communication is exposed to different interpretations of symbols and words, and to poor production. Even though the clarity of the written message, it can be neglected or ignored because of improper spelling/grammar skills, the incorrect format or inappropriate length. In the same way, oral communication is vulnerable to poor listening or distracting voice. To gain effectiveness, the sender must consider the velocity, the tone and the body language used during the communication process. It is mandatory for the messenger to read the receiver’s body language to evaluate the degree of understanding. Once the message arrives to the receiver, it is submitted to physical and emotional conditions, predetermined notions and different levels of receptivity.

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