Leadership Communication Should Be Personal

In Baldoni’s (2003) book, Great Communication Secrets of Great Leaders, he lists three secrets for effective leadership communication: develop the right leadership message, deliver a consistent leadership message, and finally, sustain and enhance the leadership message. Though these are three practical ‘secrets’ from Baldoni, a fourth ‘secret’ may be applicable for effective leadership communication: personalize the leadership message.

A large portion of leadership research has focused on human capital attributes of leaders such as traits and behavioral styles, as well as situational attributes such as task structures, leadership substitutes, decision processes, and leader-member exchange quality (Balkundi and Kilduff, 2006). A smaller portion of leadership research has focused on the necessity of strong relationships between leader and followers; leadership models such as transformational, authentic, and servant have relational components as a priority (Northouse, 2013).

With effective leadership requiring such a relational component, it would seem logical to conclude that leadership communication would also need a relational, or personal, component to it. Baldwin (2003) touches on the fact that a leader’s character, conviction, and personal example can back up the communication and strengthen the message, but stops short of focusing on the personal relationship component necessary for effective leadership communication.

Leadership is social capital that collects around certain individuals (Balkundi and Kilduff, 2006, p. 421), which the individuals can trade in for action from followers. If leaders utilize the personal capital in their communication of ideas, vision, and initiatives, it translates into action by followers due to their willingness to trust the credibility and legitimacy of the leader (Chemers, 2002). Relationship with followers also reveals to the leader the needs and motivations of followers in order to better craft the leadership message that connects with followers where they are (McCallum and O’Connell, 2009, p.153).

Can leadership communication become too personal?


Baldoni, J. (2003). Great Communication Secrets of Great Leaders (1 edition). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Balkundi, P., & Kilduff, M. (2006). The ties that lead: A social network approach to leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(4), 419–439.

Chemers, M. M. (2002). Efficacy and effectiveness: integrating models of leadership and intelligence. Classic Readings in Organizational Behavior, pp. 114–31.

McCallum, S., & O’Connell, D. (2009). Social capital and leadership development. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 30(2), 152–166.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: theory and practice (6th ed). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

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