Macquarie University
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‘The leadership interface’: effective leadership communication for contemporary global leaders

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:21 authored by Ian C. Woodward
Academic literature is replete with studies highlighting the vitality and importance of communication interactions for effective leadership. However, research devoted to providing a deeply integrated picture of effective leadership communication and its attributes, encompassing elements such as context, content, structure, delivery,collaboration and communication styles, combined with leadership behaviors (which are frequently reflected through communication behaviors), is extremely rare. Studies are even more infrequent that examine leadership communication through the prism of the dynamic contemporary global business and organizational environment – the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and diverse (VUCAD) world. Consequently, the central question addressed in this thesis is: “What are the key attributes of effective leadership communication required for contemporary global organizational leaders in a VUCAD world?” By a deductive and thematic analysis of the plethora of classic and contemporary studies on leadership and communication (and contributions from original thesis publications), this dissertation seeks to address such a gap in the literature. The primary focus is the identification of a useful and fully integrative definition of ‘effective leadership communication’, together with its attributes, for contemporary global leaders in the VUCAD context. This connects the leadership environment of interactions with public, group, interpersonal, intrapersonal and behavioral leadership communication. To address the above foci and the thesis question, a framework, titled the ‘Leadership Interface’, is developed. This framework is built upon a rich definition (derived from the research) of ‘effective leadership communication’, as : achieving successful interaction, engagement and exchanges between leaders and stakeholders, within the dynamic leadership environment, inside and outside an organization or setting, to create shared meaning, understanding and satisfaction for the stakeholders, in specific situations as well as over time, and across a diverse range of communication situations and formats. Effective leadership communication in the leadership environment is built on self-awareness and awareness of others, and where the communication interactions take account of the leadership context and objectives, aiming to create relevant meaning, connection and engagement for all involved. Effective leadership communication interactions succeed because: the communication is meaning centered, relational and transmissional; the interactions employ communicative leadership practices, language and behaviors; leaders competently adjust, enhance and focus their communication approach and style to the needs of context, others and purpose; and the interactions are communication intelligent. The ‘Leadership Interface’ framework sets out a ‘Leadership Environment’ for leadership communication interactions with four interconnecting dimensions: Leadership Context (the leadership situation and circumstances for communication interactions – current and prospective, within a VUCAD world); Leadership Objectives (the vision, strategy, goals, desires, needs and purposes of the leader and leadership stakeholders); Leadership Stakeholders (the people within and outside the organization who participate in the leadership interactions); and Leadership Self (the personal awareness, characteristics and overall approach of the leader which influence the leadership interactions). The ‘Leadership Interface’ framework then incorporates four areas of attributes required to achieve ‘effective leadership communication’, being: Communicative Interaction: Meaning-Centered, Relational and TransmissionalCommunication; Communicative Leadership: Practices, Language and Behaviors; Communication Competence: Approaches, Styles and Capabilities; and Communication Intelligence: Communication Mindsets, Techniques andPreferences in Action. The framework is designed to be applied in a VUCAD world by individual and global executive leaders and the people with whom they interact. This integrated interface also provides opportunities for successful translation into professional leadership development and performance. In addition, the five thesis publications (cited and referenced across the chapters, and each contributing to the framework derived) cover the author’s contributions to closing other identified gaps in the leadership communication literature: ‘effective leadership communication in global crisis situations’ (empirical research positing the need to account for crisis situations beyond a single organization, such as the global financial crisis); ‘innovation-centered leadership communication’ (research study showing the most effective leadership communication means to achieve innovation outcomes in contemporary organizations); ‘intergenerational practices in leadership communication in the workplace’ (empirical study demonstrating intergenerational congruence and divergence in specific workplace communication practices); and ‘fair process leadership communication’ (theoretical study demonstrating the communication approaches and practices required to achieve fair process outcomes in contemporary organizations). A final thesis publication contributes to the leadership literature relevant to the setting of management, talent, human resources and communication in the VUCAD world; and this contextualizes all the thesis research. The publications arising from the candidate’s research thus contribute directly to the dissertation scholarship (the definition and attributes of effective leadership communication), and to leadership and communication scholarship in defined areas. A further thesis contribution to ‘leadership communication’ scholarship is a byproduct of the deductive and thematic review methodology utilized and applied systematically throughout the main thesis chapters. This provides an integrated and comprehensive review of the relevant classic and contemporary literature (across various disciplines), to better position future research in the ‘leadership communication’ field itself and identify future research priorities. This work involved multidisciplinary research, including examination, synthesis and extension of those aspects arising from relevant leadership theories and models (such as transformational, charismatic, fair process, emotional intelligence, networking), and from communication theories (such as speech act, rhetoric, linguistics, cognitive and information processing, and media richness theory). The research covers the theoretical interface and intersections amongst these various leadership and communication disciplines; as well as covering the interdisciplinary sub-discipline research of the ‘leadership communication’ field itself (such as leader content, style, structure, delivery, behavioral communication, intergenerational interaction and cross-paradigm leadership communication). Given the multi-disciplinary nature of the research, the thesis needed to also draw upon scholarship from other research areas where relevant research had been undertaken (such as entrepreneurship, human resource management, operations, technology, marketing and business strategy). Thus, the thesis aims to address important research gaps, and provides an intellectually robust, novel and integrated framework for defining and understanding key attributes of ‘effective leadership communication’ required for contemporary global leaders in a VUCAD world. The work and its associated publications endeavor to: provide a significant contribution to literature and scholarship; add substantively to the body of knowledge in the leadership communication field; and form a robust foundation for future research in leadership communication.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction - Leadership, communication and the VUCAD world -- Chapter 2. Leadership research and communication -- Chapter 3. Communication research and leadership -- Chapter 4. Message and presence : the language and nonverbal communication of leadership -- Chapter 5. Leadership communication attributes : communicative interaction and communicative leadership -- Chapter 6. Leadership communication attributes : communication competence and communication intelligence -- Chapter 7. Conclusion : the leadership interface framework -- Chapter 8. Compendium chapter : formal thesis publications -- References -- Appendices.


Bibliography: pages 317-404 Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Macquarie Graduate School of Management

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie Graduate School of Management

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Elizabeth More

Additional Supervisor 1

Gayle Avery


Copyright Ian C. Woodward 2017. Copyright disclaimer:




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