Ethics, Technology, Sustainability, and Social Issues
BTM 7101, Assignment 5
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Joe Direnzo
26 February 2017
A vivid memory I have involves a conference I attended at a very early point in my career. The gentlemen who was speaking to the assembled group was addressing the issue of the unparalleled importance of trust and communication in leadership. In his speech, he uttered a phrase which still echoes in my mind: "The currency of a leader is trust." He then went on to explain that trust, accompanied by clear communication, is of the utmost importance to the leader. As leadership is exercised, necessary decisions will be made which will not be received favorably by certain segments of employees. However, if trust has been established and intentions communicated clearly prior to the decision being carried out, the results will always be more favorable.
As the workplace environment becomes both more global and electronic, these challenges will only be felt more acutely by those individuals in leadership. Added to that is the stress of the workforce metaphorically shrinking as the markets become more global. With this fact in mind, issues of trust and communication will continue to be felt by more and more people, and the impact of individual leaders will only become more concentrated. When these leaders address the members of their organization, every word from their mouths, pens, tablets, or keyboards serves the purpose of informing employees and clients of the "state of thinking" within the organization. (Sarros, 2014) This "state of thinking" not only informs others of the direction in which leadership is headed, but also paints a mental picture for them of the identity and values of the organization itself. This, in turn, will influence their own "state of thinking" about their present and future as a part of the organization. In this sense, communication and trust must be a conscious priority for those in leadership.
Trust in leadership, and the communication of trust on the part of leadership, are vital not just to the bottom-line of the company, but also, and arguably more importantly, to the morale and "buy-in" of its individual members. One author places such a high degree of importance on trust and communication that he refers to it as the "emotional glue...between leader and follower" and, he adds, that the "form and quality of interactions between trusting parties" cannot be overstated. (Savolainen, 2014) It follows, then, that not only the quality of communication must be carefully considered by those in leadership, but also the form of communication, as this also impacts this "emotional glue".
As electronics become increasingly become a part of the workforce, they also become an increasingly relied upon form of communication between leader and follower. Therefore, leaders would be wise to utilize this resource in their communication as a mechanism of building trust between themselves and the organization. For example, an e-leadership survey conducted in 2011 concluded that e-leaders must develop "strong social networking skills, a global multi-cultural mindset, greater sensitivity toward followers' state of mind, and a 24X7 orientation." (Savolainen, 2014) For the modern leader and organization, e-leadership is a concept which must not and cannot be ignored.
The term "e-leadership" is itself an example of how technology has transformed the workplace, and the leader is certainly no exception. More and more workplaces in developed countries are transforming from physical to virtual workplaces which are entirely dependent upon technology. This, in turn, has greatly impacted the daily interaction leaders experienced with their employees in the past. As face-to-face interaction in virtual workplaces vanishes, this ever-important communication between leaders and followers is replaced by digitally formatted interaction which can facilitate the same purposes as those personal interactions. (Savolainen, 2014) In this sense, communication and trust are arguably more integral in e-leadership than in traditional settings as employees and organizations lose much of the personal interaction, which was itself foundational for communication and building trust between leaders, employees, and organizations.
This growing shift toward a virtual workplace also increases the importance of clearly articulated messages from leaders throughout the organization. As workplaces lose such important elements of communication as body language and other forms of non-verbal communication, clearly articulated messages are absolutely essential to building trust. One CEO aptly remarked that leadership is "communicating vision" and getting employees to "accept and adopt it as their own", and getting them to come together to work toward that communicated vision. (Sarros, 2014) The truth of this statement applies just as much to a virtual workplace and to the e-leader as it does to a physical workplace and the traditional leader. In the absence of personal interaction, however, that burden is felt to an even greater degree by the e-leader. Therefore, every word must be carefully measured to ensure that those most basic and essential goals of leadership are met in their digital communication.
While technology presents unique challenges for the e-leader and business, research and studies have proven that certain benefits exist within the digital community as well. One recent study examined the benefits that technology brings to those with weak social connections within the workplace. Their findings indicate that not only is technology beneficial for leaders communicating with these individuals, but also that "frequent online interpersonal communication" has actually demonstrably transformed those connections into strong workplace connections. (Cheng, 2017) In a very real sense, technology can aid the leader in communicating and building trust with their employees and also facilitating communication between the employees to strengthen their own interpersonal communication, both of which benefit the company and its individual members.
For as long as leadership has existed, and for as long as multiple people have needed to come together to work toward a common goal, communication and the building up of trust have been a cornerstone of this leader-follower relationship. In many ways, this truth is only magnified in the world of global economy and virtual workplaces. The term "rock star leadership" addresses this new dynamic of leadership, communication, and trust in a digital world. People are drawn to personable leaders with charismatic personalities, and the importance of communication from these leaders is not only under more of a microscope than ever before, but it also presents unique opportunities to communicate vision, mission, and build trust within an organization.
While in graduate school and enrolled in a class on public speaking, the professor quipped, "When there is a mist in the podium, there is a fog in the pews." This short phrase best encapsulates the importance of clear communication with an aim toward building trust between leaders and followers. Through articulate speech which clearly communicates with the organization and builds trust within its members, the leader is responsible for ensuring that the vision is grasped and owned by the individual members, and that those members are willing to look "beyond self-interest to organizational interest." (Baker, 2016) If the leader himself or herself is unclear on what is being communicated, then it is almost a certainty that those receiving that message will be confused to the point where the intended message is never received or acted upon. When this occurs, not only is communication actually working against the intentions of the leader, but it also serves to possibly destroy trust due to the constant breakdowns in communication.
With technology leading to virtual workplaces, social media, and a variety of means of digital communication, traditional means of communication and trust building are disappearing at an increasing rate. As mentioned above, this places an even greater emphasis on the leader and his or her ability to communicate effectively with those in an organization. The use of technology for the e-leader can be a communication tool which either builds trust within an organization or, if misused, misunderstood, or misappropriated, could prove to be detrimental to the purposes of the leader and the organization. With research indicating that followers are far more likely to model a leader with whom they identify and in whom they trust, the importance of communication and trust from a leader to the members of an organization cannot be overstated. (Baker, 2016) Every leader or aspiring leader of organizations of any size would be wise to continually develop and cultivate these characteristics in light of the demonstrated benefits which they provide.
Baker, S., Mathis, C., Stites-Doe, S., Javadian, G. (2016). The Role of Trust and Communication in Fostering Followers' Self Perceptions as Leaders. Journal of Managerial Issues, 28(3/4), 210-230. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
Cheng, X., Fu, S., de Vreede, G. (2017). Understanding trust influencing factors in social media communication: A qualitative study. International Journal of Information Management, 37(2), 25-35. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
Sarros, J. C., Luca, E., Densten, I., & Santora, J. (2014). Leaders and their use of motivating language. Leadership & Organizational Development Journal, 35(3), 226-240. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
Savolainen, T. (2014). Trust-Building in e-Leadership: A Case Study of Leaders' Challenges and Skills in Technology-Mediated Interaction. Journal of Globa Business Issues, 8(2), 45-56. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
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