Umar Farouk
Jurusan Administrasi Niaga, Politeknik Negeri Semarang
 Jl. Prof. Sudarto, S.H., Tembalang, Kotak Pos 619/SMS Semarang 50061

The effective role of a leader in an organization to some extent is very much influenced by communication skills.  Communication skills  cover many aspects and dimensions. The aspects of language mastery, the understanding of culture, psychological side of human beings, the choice of communication media are some examples.  This article tries to learn further the contributions of communication skills in improving the effectiveness of leadership in view of some communication constraints and the ways to give solutions.

Key words:  communication skills, leadership, communication media, communication constraints

            People say that if someone has desire to be successful in his life, he must have the skills of communication. Communication skills cover many aspects and dimensions such as language mastery,  cultural knowledge and understanding, the understanding of psychological side of human beeings, and the ability to utilize appropriate communication media. In terms of the language mastery, communication skills consist of listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills.  Someone may have a deep knowledge of management, art, music, psychology, medical treatment, politics, economy and business,  et cetera but if he does not have the abiltiy to communicate his knowledge, for instance for marketing, educational and political purposes, it will be almost useless. The reason is that he cannot utilize his knowledge for the benefits of others. This is if we discuss communication skills from the personal perspective.
In institutional or organizational perspective, communication skills give more important influence or impacts.  A manager who does not have communication skills will have some problems in implementing the functions of management.  Planning, Organizing, Actuating, and Controlling (POAC), will be impossible to be implemented effectively without a good mastery of communication skills. This is because when we run a management of a company we have to do with employees. We have to talk with them. We have to know how to communicate with them in the most persuassive and effective ways as communication is the fourth pillar of management.
Many experts give their definitions about communication. There are many and varied. As usual, they give those definitions on the basis of their backgrounds of expertise. Keith Davis says that communication is transfering understanding from someone to another. Handoko says that communication is a process of transfering understanding or information from somone to another verbally and non-verbally. Therefore, he states that it is necessary that in communication, a communicator employs eye contact, facial expression, and some other body languages. Another expert, Judith Dwyer gives emphasis on the change of behaviour. If in communication  process there is no change of behaviour, it can be said that there is no communication happening. It seems that the above-mentioned definitions are respectively give contribution to our understanding or comprehension about communication. What is stated by Dwyer takes its ultimate goal of communication.  It can be postive or negative in line with a communicator’s expectations.

Examples of Change of Behaviour
(from negative to positive)

Examples of Change of Behaviour
(from positive to negative)
Open minded
Narrow minded

In addition to those definitions there are some more other definitions, among others,  delivered by  Brent D Ruben (1988), Louis Forsdale (1981), William J Seiler (1988), Hovland, Janis and Kelley (1981).
On the basis of this discussion, it can be concluded that in every day life and business environment many people do communicate but they do not communicate. It means that they cannot achieve their communication goals. Many managers do speak, give instructions, give warnings, et cetera but the employees do not listen, follow, and obey. This  may happen as communication strategies are not functioned. That is why communication skills should be taken into account when communicating.

Improving Communication Skills
It is obvious that communication has to achieve its goals or targets. In business, achieving the goals or targets is a must. The failure of achieving the goals or the targets may make a company get lost. Some profits cannot be taken. Everyone in a company has to learn how to communicate effectively to each other. Horizontally and vertically.  A manager has to able to motivate his subordinates, a supervisor has to be able to report to his manager, a secretary has to have the capability to give interesting and effective business presentation, a manager must be able to discuss with his General Manager to make some crucial business  development decisions, employees must have ability to give their complaints, suggestions, and opinions to their boss politely and persuassively. At last all people in the company, General Manager, Managers, Supervisors, and Employees have to have the skills of comunicating horizontallly to enable the functions of management  (POAC) work propperly.

In discussing how to improve communication skills, the components of communication process should be put forward, namely Communicator, Message, Channel, and Communicant.  Below is the chart of Communication Process

General Model of Communication Process (Zuhdi, M.Si,  2011)

Regarding Communicator and Communicant, there are some factors influencing the effectiveness of communication process such as the mastery of four language skills (Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing), creativity to develop ideas, culture, education, age, feeling, family, et cetera.  In communication process Communicator and Communicant can function interchangably, for it happens reciprocally or two way traffic of communication. 
Message which contains information can also give influence to the effectiveness of communication process both positive and negative. Message will be not obvious if the use of language is not correct grammatically or some incorrect words are used.  The use of inappropriate cultural contexts may also make the message not easily understandable.
As to the use of channels or media of communication what is crucial to take into account is their quality. Naturally, we use our five senses as the channels of our communication, covering seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. If those senses can function normally, they facilitate to the success of communication process conducted. If there is a problem with them, it becomes  a ‘noise’ in communication process.
In practice communication process not only uses the five senses but also technological equipments, such as telephone, television, internet, teleconferencing, skype, loud speaker, an so forth. The quality of those equipments, of course, will improve the quality of the communication process and avoid the communication noise.
So, how can we improve our communication skills? The followings are the solutions offered:
1)         Improve the skills of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and developing ideas.
2)         Pay attention on the culture, education, age, family, feeling, et cetera of communicant.
3)         Make sure that the media used are of good quality.
4)         Avoid ‘hallo effect’. It means we have to behave objectively to others without having subjective prejudice.
5)         Understand individual differences or complexity of individuals. Every body is unique. We have to interact with them not by ignoring their uniqueness.
6)         Understand cultural background. In global communication there is a big risk of getting communication problems caused by cultural background. This must be avoided as it is sometimes very sensitive. Cross cultural understanding seems to be urgent to discuss in communication activities these days.
7)         Utilize feedbacks or responses to improve our communication quality. Those feedbacks or responses can be verbal or non verbal. Therefore, it is not good if we only listen to someone’s words in oral communication. Body languages such as eye contact, facial expression, hand movements and so forth should be very carefully seen.
8)         Practice face to face communication. Communicating by using technological facilities like telephone and teleconferencing, for instance may make misunderstanding or miscommunication. It is because the used technology has some weaknesses by its nature. The poor sound system and the poor picture quality that we can enjoy may trigger some distortions leading to communication ineffectiveness.
9)         Use simple language. The goal of communication is to create mutual understanding, therefore use easy words and never use difficult and technical words which only understood by specific professional community. The task of communication is to change something difficult or complex into something easy and simple. Consider your receivers.

Effective Leadership
Many people are still of the opinion that to be a good leader an intellectual or academic record is the most important prerequisite. This opinion, as we know, is not true. Many bright people fail to be a good or effective leader. David Goleman (  quotes that to be successful requires the effective awareness, control and management of one’s own emotions, and those of other people.  This is what is called Emotional Quotient (EQ).  EQ embraces two aspects of intelligence:
1)          Understanding one’s self, one’s goals, intentions, responses, behaviour and all.
2)         Understanding others, and their feelings.
Goleman identified the ‘domains’ of EQ as:
1)         Knowing emotions.
2)         Managing emotions.
3)         Motivating one’s self.
4)         Recognising and understanding other people’s emotions.
5)         Managing relationships, that is managing the emotions of others.
All these are concerned with leadership communication. To make it obvious, let’s start with discussing types of leadership.  According to Riyanto’s statement, there are four types of leadership, namely authoritarian, supervisory, laissez faire, and democratic. Many experts of  communication agree that democratic type of leadership is the best type to implement compared to the other types. Though this is not true when we refer to the theory of situational leadership but it is true when the four types of leaderships are discussed separately. Situational leadership on the other side, emphasizes on the flexibility of using the four types on the basis of the recent conditional and situational context.    Situational leadership theory believes that each type of leadership has its own superiorities and weaknesses.
Apart from the above discussion, all experts of communication are convinced of the importance of communication skills to support leadership effectiveness. They say that communication is the backbone of management.  Without excellent communication skills it is quite difficult for a leader in an organization to implement the functions of management (Planning, Organizing, Actuating, and Controlling). This is reasonable, for Planning, Organizing, Actuating, and Controlling in the organization have to do with people. All these can be well done if communication can be practiced more strategically to give its most beneficial defects.  A manager cannot give an effective instruction to his employees to do a task if he communicates without respect, courtesy, and persuasiveness. Although the employees understand the instruction but they will give a negative response to him. This will decrease his leadership.
An authoritarian leader generally has bad communication skills. They never listens to his employees and other people in his company. He tends to listen to himself and ignores everything beyond. He feels that what he thinks and decides is the best for all. This kind of leader will never be successful in managing his organization. A leader of supervisory type of leadership when implementing his leadership generally likes to listen to his employees.  The weaknesses of this type of leadership is he listens too much and  is not brave enough to make decisions. He releases a half of his responsibility to take some risks. He gives the other half to his employees. The degree to which he really communicates with them  by all means influences his leadership: effective or ineffective. Laissez Faire leadership, more rarely communicates with employees. Therefore, in terms of the communication quality, this type of leadership seems to be unsatisfactory. He creates distance because of his low capability to lead. He does not feel comfortable to be with his employees. He manages his company from a distance. Decision makings are made by his employees. Democratic leadership, among the other-mentioned types, is the best. He communicates effectively with employees. He takes all the risks to make decisions. He likes to be with the employees, listen to them, motivates them to work, and tries to cultivate conducive corporate culture. If the made decisions are successfully implemented to develop the company, he says that the success is made by his employees. On the contrary if the implementation of the decisions fail, he says it is because of his leadership. A democratic leader generally is optimistic and motivates all his employees to work better for the expecting success despite the failures. He is a type of inspiring communicator and motivator. He is a person with high communication skills.
The Role of Communication in Effective Leadership
The role of communication in effective leadership is quite crucial. Without communication leadership will never exist. The process of leadership will stop because leadership relates to people. Communication is the core of leadership since it manages the interactions among people: leaders and followers. Consequently, the quality of communication will influence the quality or effectiveness of leadership. The following chart will make this concept more understandable:

Leadership Factors
(Source: US Army, 1983)

As clearly shown in the chart, communication between a leader and a follower will create situation. An effective leader manages to create conducive situation when communicating. On the other way round, an ineffective leader creates many communication problems. As a result, he creates situation which is not favorable or inconvenient for his followers. This gives negative impacts to his leadership.
Regarding the role of communication in leadership effectiveness, some experts put forward their statements:
1)         Murray Johannsen  (1983) says that there are six competencies which contribute to leadership communication skills, namely organizational communication, feedback, small group communication, persuasive skills, public speaking and self-talk. (httpp:// Interpersonal.html)
2)         John Eric Adair (2009) states that strong communication  skills are arguably the most important attribute a manager can possess.
3)         George Ambler (2009) quotes that without effective communication you cannot end up talking a walk on your own. Communication is critical to effective leadership, however it is often something we take for granted and therefore not given the attention it deserves. One can lack any of the qualities of an organizer – with one exception – and still be effective and successful.  That exception is the art of communication. (

Based on the discussion it is obvious that communication skills and leadership seems to have a strong relation. Whoever wants to get success in his leadership should consider his communication skills verbally and non verbally. The choice of the types of leadership is generally determined to some extent by his communication skills.  Sometimes the choice is done beyond his awareness.  For the purpose of doing a business it is suggested that the choice is done professionally. It can be done if every leader does it deliberately.

Adair, John Eric, Effective Communication, London, Pan Macmillan, 2009
Davis, Keith, Human Behaviour at Work: Organizational Behaviour, Indiana, Mc Graw Hill Inc, 1981
Dwyer, Judith, The Business Communication Handbook, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006
Handoko, T Hani, Manajemen (Ed. II), Yogyakarta, BPFE, 1989
Riyanto, Makmun dkk, Komunikasi Niaga I, Semarang, Polines, 1996
US Army, Military Leadership (FM 22-100), Washington DC, US Government Printing Office, 1983
Zuhdi, M.Si, Drs. Umar Farouk, Komunikasi Bisnis: Pemahaman Secara Mudah, Wahana Totalita Publisher, 2011 (accessed on 20 December 2011) (accessed on 21 December 2011)