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One of the most important aspects of effective leadership and achieving goals is interaction and communication, between a leader and his/her group. We are moving towards an integrated global network of economies. Globalization and a wave of new technologies are changing the way we communicate. The goal of this paper is to emphasize the importance of an innovative and a collaborative culture and underline the role communication plays in developing these types of environments. Recently there has been a shift in communication strategy due to Web 2.0 technologies like twitter; this paper highlights the benefits of these types of technologies and attempt to see if these benefits can be leveraged for leadership.
"Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal" (Northhouse, 2009, pg.10). It is about how a leader affects a group of people. Within the organizational context leadership is about applying principles of leadership to variety of vocational settings to understand the functioning of an organization (Patel, 2010). Communication is a primal aspect of being human. Interaction between the leader and his/her team fosters leadership. The communication style of the leader establishes the organizational culture and will be emulated by its members. Communication strategy is central to the type of leadership a leader executes, "The golden thread tying all leadership functions together is clear communication" (Froschheiser, 2008). Empowering followers is one of the leadership fundamentals, and communication is vital to attain this. Through communication and correspondence leaders can exert influence on their team members. In my previous paper How Web 2.0 like Twitter are changing the strategy of communications for organizations I talked about how charismatic leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy and more recently Barack Obama are great orators. Martin Luther King Jr. was an inspirational speaker, his "'I Have a Dream' speech galvanized people of all races and created an unprecedented bipartisan coalition for anti-racist legislation" (Ling, 2003). The article by De Vrie, Bakker-Pieper and Oostenveld (2010), presents a study that maintains the fact that human-oriented leadership is mainly communicative and that a core part of leadership is interpersonal communication.
Classically communication within organizations was a one way conversation with their employees. A directive type of leadership rather than collaborative exists within the organization work culture. Speaking in stereotypical terms Organizations have 'Managers' not 'Leaders'. There is little to no input from low level employees within the organizational decision making space. Employees would receive merely receive newsletters and quarterly updates (Patel, 2010). Most businesses viewed communication from leaders as having only a minor role in organizational strategy. Hierarchical ways of communication fail to motivate and empower an employee which in turn disregards leadership principles of empowerment and encouragement. "Above all, leadership communication entails nurturing and maintaining a workplace environment in which communication flows freely and quickly in all directions with minimal distortion or lag time," (Nostran, 2004).
Our whole culture dynamic is transforming, we are now starting to value openness, conversation and collaboration. Companies are stirring towards more customer involvement and want to be engaged with their employees. Organizations such as Sun Microsystems Inc. and SAP Americas are focusing on developing their employee feedback strategy and moving it towards more engagement. "Traditional 'means-end' industry structure is disintegrating and more creative and innovative culture is replacing it (Patel, 2010). Creativity is the first step for innovation and "innovation is absolutely vital for long term corporate success" (Amabile T, 1997). People will go above and beyond their means to accomplish something that is important to them; this is because of intrinsic motivation. The article by Amabile also suggests that one's creativity is significantly affected by one's social environment. "Today, workers are the chief assets, and communicating with them effectively from the top down is central to building and maintaining an organization in the 21st century" (Nostran, 2004). No employee wants to feel voiceless in the organization. If an organization can enable workers of all levels a chance to express their thoughts, and show that it values their opinion than employees are more likely to take a personal stake in the business. "Therefore an organization needs engaging leaders who can inspire employees and help develop cultures that foster creativity" (Patel, 2010).
Traditional means of communication are unable to provide multinationals and larger companies the leverage to sufficiently engage all their employees. In my previous paper I discussed the group dynamic aspect to communication. One of the observations I made was that electronic groups tend to miss out on intense human relationships which in turn results in more member commitment to the group. The bigger a company is, the more of a problem internal communication becomes. Information flows down the management ladder, but getting insights back up to management and encouraging collaboration among people throughout the enterprise is harder. Conventional technologies are not very good at facilitating group conversation. This is where web 2.0 technologies come into the picture; they "cater the needs of large organizations to connect with their customers as well as their employees" (Patel, 2010). They are simply adding another dimension to an organizations communication strategy. "A culture that allows communication to flow openly and evenly across all levels and departments will find that employees even in entry-level positions have the tools necessary to envision opportunities for better ideas" (Agin & Gibson, 2010). The point here is to create an integrated communication strategy that is involving, interactive and far reaching in the organization.
As established before communication plays a prominent role in fostering synergetic and creative environments. Latest surge of communication technologies known as the Web 2.0 Technologies, provide a wide range for collaborative cultures to develop, as opposed to their traditional counterparts. They are also changing the power dynamics of the social architecture. Traditionally corporate bureaucracies had rigidly vertical hierarchies; they had centralized command-control system in which power was exercised top-down. As opposed to this, social networks are horizontal and the dynamic of power is distributed and diffused. In "the web 2.0 era, there are no barriers to entryâ€¦everybody has access to value chain." (Dutta, S & Fraser, 2008). The social web is different from other revolutionary technologies, for example the printing press was a machine whose ownership was largely restricted to elites. The cost of production is almost zero and consumers can also become cultural producers. These technologies are highly accessible and extensive. "Web 2.0 encompasses a variety of different meanings that include an increased emphasis on user-generated content, data and content sharing and collaborative effort, together with the use of various kinds of social software, new ways of interacting with web-based applications, and the use of the web as a platform for generating, re-purposing and consuming content" (Ware). Traditional communication Media such as TV, Radio, Newspaper offer a very unidirectional approach whereas technologies like Facebook, YouTube, Blogs, Wikis, Twitter, Blogs etc. are highly interactive and offer active participation and integration of different media. Baron, Alyete the director of business development for emerging markets at Cisco, describes how web 2.0 technologies and social networking have been embraced, particularly by senior leaders, to form a strong culture of collaboration. Social networking and Web 2.0 Technologies act as catalyst for creating a greater global community. It is becoming increasingly important for companies to provide internal social software tools. Given that the next generation of employees uses social software as their dominant communication means, "companies need to bridge generational gaps and boundaries by supporting this method of communication between emloyees" (DiMicco J. Millen R., Geyer. W Dugan. C, 2008)
Cisco has done a wonderful job in encouraging adoption of Web 2.0 technologies within its organization culture. "We're changing the way in which we interact as teams by moving over to more collaborative workspace environments that encourage greater interaction among coworkers" (Baron, 2008). Cisco has various internal technologies like WebEx, Wikis and Directory 3.0 that provide collaboration focus for the future. WebEx Connect is a great tool that includes discussion forums, shared file space and the ability to start audio and video calls with team members in one click. Cisco's internal wiki strategy includes specific team wikis, as well as Ciscopedia, which is an online topical encyclopedia written collaboratively by Cisco employees. There is also a tie in with blogs and video wiki through RSS and tagging features. The goal is to have a wiki environment where teams can store, maintain and collaborate on topics. This is a great way to share best practices in a targeted community. Directory 3.0 is the online location to find topic experts and gain a human perspective to all of this great information. This encourages a better view of employees and their expertise. Cisco's teleconferencing software provides the 'in-person' experience. At Best Buy Blue Shirt Nation was created to listen to what employees had to say. "What Best Buy didn't anticipate is that it would not only educate management but also enable employees to help each other" (Li C. & Bernoff J, 2008) Leaders can leverage these technologies to establish the type of organizational culture they need to lead effectively.
Leaders need to realize the caliber of these new rapidly changing platforms for their organizations communication strategy. Various CEOs and leaders understand that "Web 2.0 tools are not just a technological add-on, but must be integrated into a company's entire operations in order to bring about a fundamental shift in values and perception" (Dutta, S & Fraser, 2009). The press conferences are over-rehearsed and staged; they make the leader seem distant and disengaged. It is important for followers to perceive their leaders as accessible and relatable. "Being entangled and involved is part of being a leader" (Patel, 2010). With a good strategy these technologies can help shed an authentic light on the leader. The overall communication strategy needs to be integrated with these social media technologies in order to be effective. The strategy should focus on the overall "listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing" (Li C. & Bernoff J, 2008). Through this strategy organizations can listen to employee needs, encourage influential workers and ideas. In the Groundswell Clark Kokich, the CEO of Avenue a/Razorfish describes the various benefits of using Web 2.0 technologies internally in the organization. In 2006, he wrote a blog post about his favorite guitar solos. "This post didn't serve any specific business purpose, but it was an opportunity [for our employee] to be connected to the leadership. You can do this with a few people over a beer, but how do you accomplish that with a whole company?" In May 2007 when Microsoft announced that it was taking over Avenue a/Razorfish, Clark wrote a blog post addressing these concerns and then addressed comments and questions as they came into the blog and wiki. He explained "I could have made the announcement by email, but this was more conversational. That kind of dialogue is comforting to people because change is stressful. There is openness, and things aren't happening in secret." Personal involvement from management and leadership is extremely important to help facilitate the openness culture.
"Even when people have ready access to the internet access to the internet or a firm's intranet, people are more likely to turn to other people for information than to impersonal sources" (De Vries & Bakker-Pieper & Oostenveld 2010). This is the sheer truth, no matter the technology; it will not be able to replace the value that in person communication provides. Therefore, it is hard for leaders to lead through technology. Leadership will primarily be more effective in person, but with organizations growing globally and increasing distances in teams, it is hard to achieve balance and gain control of the group. It can be done with collaboration and team work and adopting a culture that allows information to flow freely and is based on learning and listening, using Web 2.0 technologies. Leaders will need to adjust their leadership style to the changing settings around them and make it more congruent with the communication style of the new generation. We saw the benefits of these technologies through the example of Twitter in various contexts. These technologies can prove to be very powerful in a leadership toolbox. It is now up to leaders to tap into the potential of these technologies, embrace them and experiment with these new communication strategies in order to build an efficient and involved workforce.