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Inspiring Others: The Language of Leadership



While we have learned a great deal about the necessity of strategic vision and effective leadership, we have overlooked the critical link between vision and the leader's ability to powerfully communicate its essence. In the future, leaders will not only have to be effective strategists, but rhetoricians who can energize through the words they choose. The era of managing by dictate is ending and is being replaced by an era of managing by inspiration. Foremost among the new leadership skills demanded of this era will be the ability to craft and articulate a message that is highly motivational. Unfortunately, it seems that few business leaders and managers today possess such skills. To make matters worse, our business culture and educational system may even discourage these skills. Conger examines why these skills are so critical and what the new language skills of leadership will be. He looks at how leaders through their choice of words, values, and beliefs can craft commitment and confidence in their company missions. He also explores the importance of rhetorical techniques such as stories, metaphors, and rhythm to generate excitement and enthusiasm about the leader's message.
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... Motivating language (ML) refers to the proper rhetorical crafting and framing while using the language (Conger, 1991). ML includes directive or perlocutionary, empathetic or illocutionary, and meaning-making or locutionary language (Hanke, 2021;Holmes & Parker, 2018;Mayfield et al., 1995). ...
... By communicating an organization's cultural environment, such as norms, structure, and values, leaders' locutionary language develops meaningful work awareness (Conger, 1991;Mayfield et al., 1995;Zhang et al., 2021). Because organizations have different values and cultures, locutionary language helps bring out employee expectations to life and organizational ability (Holmes et al., 2021;Mayfield & Mayfield, 2018). ...
... Because organizations have different values and cultures, locutionary language helps bring out employee expectations to life and organizational ability (Holmes et al., 2021;Mayfield & Mayfield, 2018). ML or good rhetorical constructing and framing by leaders establishes meaning about the work in assessing whether a task is sufficient, resulting in increased involvement and transparent information on job needs (Conger, 1991;Hanke, 2021;Sun et al., 2016). Employees' perceptions of psychological meaningfulness generate higher engagement (Fletcher, 2016;Kahn, 1990;Rabiul, Mohamed, et al., 2022). ...
By integrating speech act and conservation of resources (COR) theories, the link between motivating language (ML) and commitment to quality customer service (CQCS) was tested. Furthermore, work engagement was introduced as a mediator and employee resilience as a moderator. Partial least squares-structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) was applied to analyze the data collected from 424 employees in the hotel industry in Thailand. ML has direct and indirect effects on CQCS via employee work engagement. Employee resilience moderates the relationship between ML, work engagement, and CQCS. Overall, the findings indicate the use of ML, employee resilience, and engaged employees to generate CQCS in the hotel industry in Thailand. The study's novelty is that it provides greater insight into how ML, employee resilience, and engaged employees affect quality customer service in the hotel industry in Thailand. The findings contribute to COR and speech act theories by examining the direct outcomes of ML, i.e., CQCS, and how ML is more effective when employee resilience is a boundary condition. Practical and theoretical implications are described.
... Bu nedenle liderlerin kullandıkları dilin önemi artmaktadır. Birçok bilim adamı liderlerin çalışanlara rasyonel ve mantıklı direktifler vermekten daha fazlasını yapmaları gerektiğini, sadece bilgilendirme ve yönlendirmenin yeterli olmadığını, ilham vermeye ve motive etmeye de ihtiyaç duyduklarına onları teşvik etmeye çalışmışlardır (Avolio ve Bass, 1999;Conger, 1991). ...
... Günümüzde liderlerin bilgiyi mantıklı ve anlaşılır kılma noktasında yetenekli olmaları gerekir. Bu yetenek liderlik konusunda çalışma yapan birçok bilim adamının (Conger, 1991;Fairhurst ve Sarr, 1996) önemsemedikleri bir beceri olsa da günümüzde önemi daha fazla anlaşılmaktadır. Bilginin çalışanlar için daha anlaşılır bir hale getirilmesi, çok sayıda dikkat dağıtıcı etkenin bulunduğu ortamlarda büyük önem taşımaktadır. ...
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İletişim bütün örgülerin üzerinde durması gereken konulardan birisi haline gelmiştir. Özellikle son yıllarda yaşanan Covid-19 salgını, dijitalleşen eğitim öğretim etkinlikleri iletişimin önemini her zamankinden daha fazla anlamamızı sağlamıştır. İletişim kavramı günlük hayatımızda sıklıkla kullandığımız bir terimdir. “İletişim kanallarını açık tutmak, iletişimsizlik, iletişim bozukluğu, etkili iletişim” gibi kullanımları sıklıkla görmekteyiz. Fransızca komünikasyon kelimesinin dilimizde haberleşme ve iletişim anlamında kullanıldığı görülmektedir (Zıllıoğlu, 1992: 2). “Communis” kelimesinden türetilen kelimenin İngilizce karşılığı ise “communication”dir. İletişimin en önemli özelliği ise ortak anlamlar taşıyan sembollerin kullanılmasıdır. Bu nedenle sembollere yüklenen anlamların bilinmesi iletişimin başarısını önemli ölçüde etkilemektedir. Usluata (1995)’nın da ifade ettiği gibi insan doğumdan itibaren çevresi ile iletişim içindedir. Bu iletişim çevreyi anlama, etkileme, yorumlama yeteneğimize bağlı olarak bilinçsiz bir şekilde gelişiyor olsa da zamanla edindiğimiz eğitim, yaşadığımız ortam ve üstlendiğimiz roller iletişim konusunda başarımıza bağlı olarak şekillenebilmektedir.
... Indeed, while supporting creativity is related to the enactment of a "culture in which people are rewarded for trying new and different things even if they do not work out" (Renko et al., 2015, p. 62), innovativeness is more connected to the process of considering and implementing new ways of doing things, as innovation (in contrast with creativity), is related to "something new that works" (Vivona et al., , p. 1644 or to "something new and useful" (Vivona et al., 2022, p. 3). Moreover, entrepreneurial leaders do not dictate (i.e., are not despotic), are able to inspire and energize their followers to do their best work and to unlock their true potential through effective communication (Conger, 1991), and thus avoid paternalism, which is instead rooted in a more rigid control over the decisionmaking process (Pellegrini & Scandura, 2008). In turn, they tend to trust their employees better, to grant them with more autonomy, and to create a culture where risk-taking is accepted and employees are not reprimanded if appropriate risk-taking results in failure, even in the context of the public sector (Bozeman & Kingsley, 1998). ...
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Amidst severe global crises, governments are under pressure to deliver appropriate outcomes to society and create a resilient future. Therefore, public managers started to consider the benefits that entrepreneurial leadership may offer; however, some scholars argue that entrepreneurial leaders act anti-democratically. Using data from Australia (n = 104,471), this study investigates whether entrepreneurial leaders enhance the effectiveness of public organizations, while also upholding democratic principles. The results suggest that the adoption of entrepreneurship by public managers positively influences the ability of both achieving organizational goals and enacting a democratic culture where staff is consulted and participates openly in decision-making.
... Typically, in mindfulness training, mindfulness of one's embodied state begins with self-awareness (Gonzalez, 2012). Whilst leaders are not always leading, when they are required to do so, they set in motion a performance that is intended to inspire or influence others to take action (Conger, 1991). Leaders are therefore required to apply the appropriate leadership approach in those moments. ...
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The aim of this research is to explore mindfulness-in-action in moments of leadership performance and the degree to which it may enhance leadership excellence. To this end, this research answers two interrelated research questions. Firstly, what are the embodied experiences described by leaders that arise in the present moment of leadership and which they feel may hinder their ability to lead successfully? This question is explored through the analysis of a series of interviews with research participants. As an extension to my first research question, a group of leaders from various organisations were then taught mindfulness in an action-oriented way by means of a bespoke workshop that focused on utilising martial arts-based movements to teach the concept of mindfulness. My second research question explores to what extent mindfulness taught in an experiential, action-oriented way aids leaders in managing their leadership difficulties. Here the focus shifts to the leadership difficulties my research participants had previously described (i.e. in Research Question 1), as well as how, as leaders, they defined leadership before and after mindfulness-in-action training. The outcome of the research, via the analysis of interviews, was bolstered further by exploring participants’ trait or dispositional mindfulness through applying the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale both before and at two additional time points after the training. Overall, the analysis and findings of this research show that it is indeed possible to design and implement a training approach to mindfulness that is both experientially and action oriented, and which in turn has positive effects on moments of leadership performance. This research thus adds valuable insight in understanding leadership, learning and mindfulness, explored through moments of leadership performance.
... Freud was one of the first to introduce the metaphor of leaders as good parents, but this imagery remained dormant for many years (Brandāo, 2016). Conger (1991) noted that rhetorical devices used in leadership studies invoke potent symbols that elicit deep cultural embeddedness and strong emotional connections. Current studies center around the transmission and replication of leadership memes that impact the self-identities people project upon prototypical behaviors from the leader-warrior, leader-problem solver, leaderpolitique, and leader-teacher (Zaccaro, 2014). ...
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine house church leaders in situ within three typologies of home gatherings. Billings (2011) identified three stages of house church formats: (a) Oikos, where the congregants assemble in the home for a complete meal, including the Eucharist; (b) Domus, where the curate renovates and dedicates rooms in their homes for Christian usage; and (c) Aula, where rented facilities house larger gatherings, the liturgy becomes more formalized, and the Eucharist is no longer a full meal (Billings, 2011). House church leaders and congregants sampled fit the three typologies while addressing a gap in the literature. Observations, diaries, individual interviews, and focus groups formed the data of this multisite case study, adding new knowledge to shared leadership in the home. Ten themes were developed to address the five research questions. The external and internal challenges facing house church leaders were identified as (a) Western-base ecclesiology, (b) time constraints, (c) commitment and accountability, and (d) child care. Regarding how house church leaders address these challenges, the participants reported (e) marrying the mission of whole-life discipleship by example; this was performed through intentional involvement, with encouragement, and for equipping the saints. The theme about follower perceptions of church leadership was (f) intimate families. The observed leadership characteristics were (g) interspersed and dispersed. The themes describing the alignment of the leadership characteristics with shared leadership were (h) size, (i) voice, and (j) shared purpose. Keywords: house church, shared leadership, qualitative research
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The central concept in this chapter is external adaptation—an inextricable element of strategic leadership architecture which, together with strategic direction and integration of the collective, affects organisational action and guides it towards the expectations and outcomes that contribute to the organisation’s survival. The chapter illustrates the role of environmental turbulences, institutional context, and institutional pressures in shaping organizational and leader behavior. Strategic leaders have to adapt their actions to the basic characteristics of the organisation’s environment. Their task is to find a way to get the organisation harmonized and almost imbued with its overall surroundings, both present and future. External adaptation, therefore, is a link created by strategic leaders between the organisation and its environment.
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This chapter focuses on the issue of unambiguously determining the phenomenon of strategic leadership. The configurations of strategic leadership depend on the situational characteristics or organizational characteristics. Further, the construct of egocentricity and egocentric strategic leadership is a configuration with an extremely asymmetrical structure of power and influence. This chapter provides insights on horizontally and vertically distributed egocentric strategic leadership. Apart from the distribution of strategic leadership with a formally established structure, leadership may also appear depending on the types of tasks and challenges that are defined or spontaneously emerge in the group or collective and that are not directly linked to hierarchy. Networks of strategic leaders commonly appear when organizations exhibit an organic structure, selective decentralization, high level of horizontal specialization of tasks, and strong reliance on experts and specialists.
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This chapter introduces the construct of hegemony of strategic leadership and the categories of power and how it reflects on strategic leadership. Within an organization, hegemony gets an additional meaning. It refers to the members ‘and the entire collective’s acceptance of the dominant organizational ideology and aspirations established by the managerial elite. Further, power is an inevitable category when it comes to understanding social relations and structures. Having power means being able to influence the behaviour of others but not necessarily to also modify their behaviour. In this chapter, the author skilfully fills the philosophical gap in the field of strategic leadership, defending the thesis that strategic leadership is inseparable from organizational ideology.
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This chapter argues that leadership can be viewed from more than one perspective. Leadership is conceptualized both as the concept that denotes an individual or a group of individuals whose authority has been accepted by others and, a process in which the set goals, plans and tasks are realized through exerting influence on one’s followers and their behaviour. The chapter describes three types of theoretical approaches according to the classic ontology of leadership: (1) leader-focused based on leadership traits, skills and styles, (2) follower-focused based on information processing, social constructivism paradigm and implicit leadership theories, and (3) situation-focused centered on the impact of the situation on leadership and its manifestations).
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This chapter explains social networks as an important construct when it comes to strategic leadership. The importance of understanding interactions between strategic leaders, organisational members and other important factors encourages the development of discourse that departs from a static, one-dimensional perspective of leadership. There is a myriad of all kinds of forms of social networks that differ by their main characteristics and levels of structural and relational network embeddedness. It is particularly important to understand the concepts of weak and strong ties in a social network and this chapter provides detailed overview of this important constructs. In addition, this chapter explains the structural hole theory and network-based perspective of strategic leadership, concepts relevant for strategic leadership. Strategic leaders need to get involved in important social networks and delve into their essence in order to better influence others and achieve their intentions and goals. If they are well-connected, they are more likely to have greater power in the network. Good position in the network can guarantee that they will need to invest less effort in getting people on board with the direction and patterns of action that they advocate.
How do strategies form in organizations? Research into the question is necessarily shaped by the underlying conception of the term. Since strategy has almost inevitably been conceived in terms of what the leaders of an organization ‘plan’ to do in the future, strategy formation has, not surprisingly, tended to be treated as an analytic process for establishing long-range goals and action plans for an organization; that is, as one of formulation followed by implementation. As important as this emphasis may be, we would argue that it is seriously limited, that the process needs to be viewed from a wider perspective so that the variety of ways in which strategies actually take shape can be considered.
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Conger is an associate professor of organizational behaviour at McGill University He received his doctorate in business from the Harvard Business School. He is known internationally for his research and teaching on the subject of executive leadership
  • Author About
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About the Author Jay A. Conger is an associate professor of organizational behaviour at McGill University, Montreal. He received his doctorate in business from the Harvard Business School. He is known internationally for his research and teaching on the subject of executive leadership.
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