Category Archives: Human Side of Leadership

Community, Communion, and the Human Side of Communication

Any time two or more people work in tandem, they create a human system.  And that system will be only as effective as the patterns of communication that support it. For communication is the means by which diverse talents can be directed toward a shared goal, the way a collection of individual I’s can be transformed into a cohesive and capable we.

In a very real sense, communication is what makes coherent, collective action possible.

But while communication allows us to express ourselves and gather information, it also builds ties of association and relationship. It draws individuals and groups together into a shared community of thought and discussion, if only for the duration of a conversation.

Communication can be understood, then, as the process of making things common. Linguistically related to “common,” “communion,” and “community,” communication can be viewed as the means by which we make our internal thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions available to those around us for external discussion and action. It is the way we share of ourselves and have access to the experience of others.

This community-building function is of great importance in the workplace. For only to the degree that leaders are willing to enter into “communion” with their employees will they be able to establish effective patterns of association. If they hold themselves above or apart from employees, communication will inevitably falter, for the very foundation on which it rests will be undermined and unsound.

Effective communication, then, depends as much on what leaders feel or don’t feel about their employees, as it does on what they say or don’t say. It depends as much on the values, beliefs, and attitudes they hold as the structures, systems, and approaches they build.

Routine interaction may involve countless utilitarian exchanges. But at the end of the day, communication is a quintessentially human endeavor that involves much more than the surface-level transmission of facts and information.

No matter how large organizations might grow, then, and no matter how remote and removed various parties might seem from each other, communication must always be approached as a matter of one human being connecting with another. Anything less will fail to fully leverage the human potential available and inherent in the system as a whole.

Effort, Habit and the Timetable of Transformation

Instant gratification is widely prized today, not the least in business circles. The number of leadership books promising tips, tricks, and secrets to achieve quick and painless change — of ones’ employees, ones’ organization, ones’ self — testifies to the number of leaders seeking the silver bullet solution. Of course many leaders realize that things… Continue Reading

Leadership Intentions for a New Year

New Years’ resolutions have a bad reputation. Gym memberships are bought and ignored; book clubs are joined and eventually dropped.  So common have such patterns become that it sometimes seems like the more earnest the commitment, the more likely its failure. But while our intentions might often outstrip our dedication, the motivation behind New Year’s… Continue Reading

Fear and the Exceptional Leader

Leaders’ assumptions, values, beliefs, and mental models are critically important in shaping their day-to-day choices, choices that mold workplace culture and impact organizational functioning. But an equally important driver of behavior – and one that is far more frequently overlooked and avoided — is fear. Fear is a delicate issue in the workplace, particularly among… Continue Reading

Appreciation: The Heart of Recognition

When it comes to the role of recognition in the workplace, the knowledge base is clear: we human beings want to be appreciated and valued in the work we do. Recognition, though, is only as good as the spirit that animates it. As a fundamentally above-the-line behavior, recognition can be disingenuous as easily as it… Continue Reading

Vision: The Emotional Connection

Much is said today about the role of vision in the workplace. Unfortunately vision is often approached primarily as a tool to be wielded or tactic to be deployed – a mechanistic and relatively superficial understanding unsuited to the task of  capturing employees’ imagination, enthusiasm, dedication, and commitment. A client once took us on a… Continue Reading

Creating Motivation? Or Creating Conditions Conducive to Motivation?

Countless leaders have wrestled with the issues of motivation. How do I motivate this or that employee? How do I increase collective motivation throughout my office, department, or organization? These questions address important workplace realities. But are the foundations of such inquiry sound? Do leaders actually motivate employees at all? Research has suggested that a… Continue Reading

Motivation, Culture and “Bad Attitude” Employees

Almost nothing is more frequently lamented in management circles than “bad attitude” employees, those people it seems nothing can be done with. It’s true that few workplace dynamics are harder to address than antagonism, apathy and hostility. But rarely mentioned is the role that sincere and well-meaning leaders can play in creating such “bad attitude”… Continue Reading

Capturing the Human Spirit

Leadership is a 100 percent human undertaking. Systems are populated by people. Policies are embraced or rejected by people. Plans are enacted or ignored by people.  And because of this, effective leadership hinges on a leader’s ability to access the talent, enhance the capacity, and develop the potential of people. But what are these human… Continue Reading

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