Home > Leadership and Management > Musings: Leaders and Communication

Musings: Leaders and Communication

By G. Balasubramanian

Fourteen years ago, in the year 2007 and on this date 19th March, I had written the following episode (episode no 39) as a part of my serial of 100 episodes on “Academic Leadership”. It appears that the content is quite relevant today not only for academic leaders but to a large number of the teaching fraternity engaged both in formal and online teaching processes, wherein the body language of the teachers matters a lot in communication. Happy to share the same after fourteen years. On a review of a large number of videos of professional etiquettes in online teaching, I thought this could be of immense use to them.

Leaders and communication

George Bernard Shaw once observed: “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Leaders need to understand that one of the key inputs behind their success is effective communication. Broadly, communication takes place both verbally and non-verbally. Albert Mehrabian observed through his research (1950) based on a wide variety of samples that only 7 % of the communication is verbal, nearly 38% is non-verbal impact and the rest is non-verbal communication. Though there are counter arguments against this model as “Mehrabian Myth”, there are a few take-a-ways from this model which can increase our communication competencies or atleast could make us increasingly conscious of a few aspects of our communication. While the voice, tone, pitch etc., impact the meaning of the communication through verbal modes, it is said that there are several modes of non-verbal communication. They are as under:

1. Body communication
2. Facial communication
3. Eye communication
4. Tactile communication
5 Para Language
6. Territoriality
7. Spatial communication

An effective leader understands the meaning and implications of the above and utilizes them to influence his followers, to drive home a point, to create a consensus, to enlarge his acceptability, to show his dissent, to negotiate an idea and to end a dispute. There is an increasing belief that people dealing with a large base of clientele, customers and audience need to take appropriate lessons in them so that their process of communication is less strenuous, more meaningful and conveys the required meaning.

Examine your communication methods for a few minutes. Ask yourself:

  • Is my body communication in congruence with my verbal communication?
  • Where do I look when I communicate to some body?
  • What are my facial expressions when I talk to somebody?
  • What messages do I give to the people around through my dress and decors?
  • How do I position myself during my communication?
  • What physical actions I engage into when I communicate?
  • How far or how close am I keeping to the listeners?

  • In most cases, you will find that we do not address to any of these questions when we communicate. Friends, a lot of research has been done on the role of non- verbal

    communication in business, marketing, public relations, hospitality management, office management, Media management and of course in classroom management. Do you think it is time that we learn some basic messages of these researches and integrate them in our professional practices?

    In a book titled “Prologue to Ethics” the author Wilford O’cross states: “Within this thin wafer of bread is caught up symbolically the labour of plow and of sowing, of harvest and threshing, of milling, of packing, of transportation, of financing, of selling and packaging. Man’s industrial life is all there.”

    Next time, when we enter our workstation and start communication with our colleagues, let us pause for a minute to ask ourselves “What am I going to pack my products with?”