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Effective leadership communication as a key role in the achievement of strategic alignment
Bartis, Heidi Vöhn
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Communicating for strategic alignment requires senior executives to be communicating leaders. This statement is evident when one reads of senior executives admitting that it is not the lack of strategy that occupies their minds, but rather their organisation’s ability to execute a strategy. The pertinent issue is therefore the ability of leaders to communicate in such a way that followers can answer the following questions: Do we know where our organisation is now in relation to its strategic direction and where is it heading? Do we understand how the roles we play contribute to the bigger picture? Do we know what the challenges and opportunities are on the way ahead and how we plan to deal with them? Do we understand how our actions contribute to achieving the organisation’s goals and in turn impact on the success of the organisation? These are some of the questions that are asked when leaders and followers seek strategic business alignment in their organisations. This debate is supported by authors who state that strategic communication can help to overcome the barrier of poor alignment and poor performance. The literature review revealed strong evidence that organisations require leadership commitment to create the ‘line of sight’ through effective leadership communication, exemplary leadership behaviour, and having the right people in the right place for strategy development, execution and measurement to ensure that organisations are successful in an ever-changing business environment. The study therefore focused on what the role of leadership communication is to ensure that employees understand the ‘bigger picture’ for the organisation and what they and leadership need to do to execute the strategy successfully and achieve the goals of the organisation. It aimed to understand the perceptions and expectations of employees in terms of the role of leadership communication as an enabler of strategic alignment. The study investigated, through a case study involving senior, middle and junior managers within a Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE)-listed company in the fastmoving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, the respondents’ perceptions of the current effectiveness of leadership communication behaviour and patterns and their perceptions of the importance of elements of leadership communication behaviour for the success of strategic alignment in the organisation. The gaps between respondents’ perceptions of the effectiveness of leadership communication behaviour and their perceptions of the relative importance of such leadership communication behaviour for the success of strategic alignment in the organisation were also measured and analysed. The measurement was conducted through two five-point Likert scales applied to the same set of Likert items where the highest and lowest scores were assigned to the variables by the respondents in terms of the importance and effectiveness of the role of leadership communication and strategic alignment. The results revealed that employees rated commitment to the organisation and its values, strategic alignment in terms of employees knowing how their division fits into the bigger picture of the organisation, what their role is in the success of the organisation, knowledge of the future plans of the organisation and that their work goals are clearly defined as important for the organisation to achieve its objectives. Pride in the organisation, and positive personal association with the organisation, were truly great characteristics of this organisation and these can be built on to enhance the strategic alignment of employees to the benefit of both the employee and the organisation. The findings also revealed gaps such as a lack of shared strategic direction, a need for open and honest communication through employee engagement, role clarification, and cultivating an environment for team solutions and collaboration, as well as a stronger alignment between rewards and performance. The study served as a base-line study and is valuable to the organisation as it provides a good foundation for the development of a strategic leadership communication plan and employee engagement strategy aimed at strengthening strategic alignment, and which can impact positively on the performance of the organisation.