Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

Communicating the Vision: How Face-to-Face Dialogue Facilitates Transformational Leadership

For public managers facing political and structural constraints, transformational leadership promises to meaningfully improve outcomes by communicating an inspiring vision of the organization. But this promise rests to a great degree upon the communication skills and behaviors of the leader. A better understanding of how transformational leadership functions in organizations therefore requires a deeper application of theory from the field of communication. We explore the question of what communication behaviors facilitate transformational leadership. We apply a media richness framework to propose that transformational leaders will be most effective when employing a face-to-face dialogue approach to communication. Using a multi-source longitudinal research design, we find support for this proposition in an empirical test on 256 Danish tax units, lower- and upper secondary schools, childcare centers, and bank branches. We also find that size matters, with the effectiveness of face-to-face dialogue declining as the organization becomes larger.

Additional Info

  • Volume or issue no.: La Follette School Working Paper No. 2018-001
  • Author(s): Ulrich Thy Jensen, Donald P. Moynihan, Heidi Houlberg Salomonsen