Communication, Communication, Communication

Most of us are familiar with the adage that the most important elements of property are location, location, location (Safire, 2009).   What are the most important elements for leadership that contribute to organizational success?  I believe the three most important leadership activities are communication, communication, communication.  You may have years of professional experience, with a variety of interesting projects on your resumé.  What can help you stand out from your competitors?  Highlight your effective communication skills to elevate you from the competition.

My research (Hartman, 2016) has shown that relationship management is one of the key skills needed for effective leadership.  Successful relationships require good communication.  The ability to manage relationships with all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and partners, is critical to your success as a leader.  The leader must be able to ensure all stakeholders understand the strategic goals and desired outcomes for the organizational activities.  The more levels that a message must go through, the more important it is that the message is clear and consistent so that all the recipients can align their efforts in the same direction.  A good leader ensures each part of the organization understands how their efforts contribute to the overall success.

Leaders must also communicate effectively with customers, to ensure the organization understands what the customer wants, and that the customer understands what the organization can deliver.  Problems and challenges that come up during the process must be communicated quickly so that solutions can be developed and applied.  How a leader communicates challenges determines whether the problems can be effectively resolved.  Be prepared to discuss not only the problem, but also some possible solutions.  Approaching difficult conversations this way helps participants to be more receptive to problem solving and facilitates more effective decision making.  Leaders also keep their own superiors apprised of progress and challenges so that their superiors are not caught off guard.

We are all more inclined to support a project or activity if we are part of the decision making process and if we understand how our efforts contribute to the overall success.  Effective communication enables greater organizational success.


Hartman, M. (2016). Improving leadership readiness for the senior executive service:
A sequential mixed methods analysis of SES dyads
(Unpublished doctoral dissertation). California Intercontinental University, Irvine, CA.

Safire, W. (2009, June 26). Location, location, location. Retrieved from http://

Leadership Is Not a Solitary Activity

Leadership is often discussed in the context of the individual, e.g. What makes a great leader?  What are the necessary traits for an effective leader?  What are the key activities performed by effective leaders?  Focusing solely on the leader’s activities or traits does not take into account the fact that leadership is not a solitary activity but rather involves the relationships among a leader and their followers.  Followers include all stakeholders such as employees, peers, bosses, and customers.  The perspective that leadership extends beyond an individual and takes into account the interaction amongst individuals led to my doctoral research on leadership dyads.  My research findings indicate that high-quality leadership dyads provide a strong example of what actions an organization can take to improve the readiness of its leaders (Hartman, 2016).

The top three activities that an organization should take to improve their leadership cadre are:

  • Recognize the importance of the development of soft skills such as relationship management. The ability to effectively manage relationships with all stakeholders is a critical success factor for good leaders.
  • Provide opportunities for candidates to establish mentoring relationships throughout their careers. It is very important to provide leadership candidates with opportunities to create mentoring and coaching relationships outside of the candidate’s supervisory chain.
  • Provide more on-the-job opportunities for candidates to practice leadership skills in a more protected environment where the candidate gets coaching through the process. This enables the candidates to get experience and face time with senior leaders in the organization.

I am not proposing to discard the development of traditional leadership skills such as strategic thinking, financial management, innovation, and good communication skills.  All of those skills are important to lead a well-functioning organization.  The key take-away is that leadership development programs should lessen the focus on individual performance and stress the importance of how the candidate builds and manages relationships with all stakeholders.  My position is that a leader has to guide the people that make up their organization to reach achievements they never thought possible.  Also that leaders should strive to leave the organization and the people that comprise it better than when they took charge of it.


Hartman, M. (2016). Improving leadership readiness for the senior executive service: A sequential mixed methods analysis of SES dyads (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). California Intercontinental University, Irvine, CA.

What Makes a Great Leader?

What makes a great leader?  And are leaders born or made?  These questions have persisted across the years and generated a lot of discussion.  Though a final consensus has not been reached regarding the answers, much has been learned over the years that informs the conversation.  Early leadership theories attempted to find specific leadership traits and then behaviors which could be used to identify potential leaders.  Alas, no definitive set of specific traits or behaviors could be consistently identified to work in every situation.   Efforts were next directed towards taking into account that different situations and circumstances require situational approaches for effective leadership.  More recent theories focus more on behaviors and abilities that can be developed and learned by those wanting to become effective leaders. 

So…what makes a great leader?  Leadership at its core is the process by which an individual is able to influence others to work towards a common goal.  Regardless of an individual’s particular skill set or approach, good relationship management skills are essential to be an effective leader.  Effective leadership requires developing and sustaining effective relationships in all directions, such as having the workforce’s trust, the supervisor’s confidence, and respect from one’s peers. 

So are leaders born or made?  The simple answer is YES – both options apply.  Some are born with great relationship management skills, while others can develop these abilities through effective leadership development activities.