Latest News

Executive Courses in Leadership Communication take Centre Stage

  • Date: Thu, Jun 10, 2021

Share this article


By Seb Murray

Communication may be the most critical component of effective leadership, says Francis Flynn, the Paul H. Holden Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business: “To achieve shared goals, a leader must be able to craft a compelling message, articulate an exciting vision, and galvanize a group around a course of action.”

Frequent communication was one of the hallmarks of successful leadership through the volatility of the past year as leaders grappled with the urgent coronavirus crisis. Many leaders took a more direct management role than they otherwise would have, speaking often with staff as well as with suppliers, regulators and shareholders.

Business schools are responding by giving communication much greater prominence — although some professors say there is still a long way to go before its importance is fully reflected in teaching. Stanford in California runs an entire self-paced executive education program in “Sharpen Your Communication Skills”.

“Communication is often treated as a peripheral part of the business school curriculum,” says Flynn. “Although it’s a core skill, it’s rarely a core course.” Stanford takes a different approach than most, focusing on hard evidence in behavioral science to highlight the best approaches to communication including mitigating biases. So what makes for effective dialogue?

“Being an effective communicator means being clear and being persuasive,” Flynn says. In the Stanford course, participants focus on how to account for the perspective of others. The pandemic has prompted a shift away from the traditional command-and-control leadership style and its accompanying forms of communication. Instead, the most successful leaders are applying a more human touch.

“The best communicators always adapt their approach to suit their audience, ensuring a greater level of understanding and enthusiasm for their message,” says Flynn.

More executive education providers taking communication seriously

While communication may not traditionally have been a recognized aspect of business training, education providers are recognizing the need to change, says Mary Groarke, Course Facilitator at UCD Smurfit Executive Education.

“While technology and complex work structures have always placed demands on effective communications, the wholesale movement of employees to remote working because of the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this need exponentially,” she says.

UCD Smurfit School in Dublin, Ireland, offers a range of executive education programs in communication, including the three-day “Communication for Influence and Impact” course. Participants draw on their existing strengths and personalities, challenge their perceptions and develop a communication style that suits them. They do this through a combination of communications theory, role-play, interactive presentations and discussions.

“In order for leaders to influence, empower others and drive change, they need to first be self-aware and observe how they communicate with others,” says Groarke. “Having a clear understanding of how they are perceived by others, and how their message is conveyed, can help leaders develop and enhance their communication style.”


This article was originally published on on 9 June 2021. Please view full article here.

Discover our Rankings and Accreditations