It is well-known that people cannot live without interpersonal communication, and precisely communication is the key to successful interaction and development of societies. All over the world, humans use a vast number of different ways to send and receive messages, and researchers actively study these ways. While the role of interpersonal communication in leadership is successfully analyzed by scientists, and many academic articles list the tools and techniques for an effective leader, there is a gap in the studies of military leadership communication. Although most interpersonal interaction skills are useful for any leader, it is still important to study the role of communication within the context of military leadership.
Definition of Interpersonal Communication
To begin with, it is essential to define interpersonal communication and talk about its general role in any leadership. According to Lewińska (2015), communication is “a process of generating, transforming and transferring information between entities, groups, and social organizations” (p. 42). The overall purpose of communication is dynamic and continuous change and modification of behaviors and knowledge “into the direction corresponding with the values or interests of the mutually affecting subjects” (Lewińska, 2015, p. 42). As for its role in companies’ leadership, communication is directly associated with the primary functions of management, like motivating, providing feedback, organizing, planning, and controlling (Fox, 2018). The main communication functions in companies are informational, organizational, motivating, and inspirational (Lewińska, 2015). Therefore, effective communication plays a significant role in any management, and some particular aspects within the context of military leadership are explained further.
The Role and Necessity of Interpersonal Communication in the Military Leadership
As mentioned above, there are two primary and equally important functions of communication in most civilian firms, and the ways they are structured and performed are rather evident. However, in military organizations, the process is built differently. As noticed by Lewińska (2015), “the informational and organizational function of communication is decisively dominant,” while the motivating and inspirational one is almost excluded (p. 45). At the same time, effective and proper communication is still an integral and one of the most essential parts of army leadership because it allows for obtaining loyal cooperation, trust, respect, and obedience of the soldiers.
Considering the information provided above, the following question arises: What are the significant elements of successful communication that the military leadership needs to consider? According to researchers, army officers communicate not only with their voices – they incorporate their bodies in order to send the necessary message and make sure that it is received correctly (Fox, 2018). Gestures, mimics, stances, emotions, and other components have to be thought through (VanSciver, 2017). Indeed, “the content of an order or a speech could have been prepared, memorized by heart, but how could the shaking voice, shivering hands of knees been brought to order?” (Lewińska, 2015, p. 45). Consequently, military leaders face many challenges in the area of communication because the way they command and control the soldiers affects their image and authority and either weakens or strengthens the relationships between the representatives of the army ranks.
Interpersonal Communication Skills Needed for the Military Leadership
An army commander cannot become a successful and respected leader without understanding nonverbal messages and emotional and interpersonal relationships and learning the necessary communication skills. Some of the most important ones are listed and explained below:
- The ability to listen: military leaders have to pay attention to the soldiers’ needs, ideas, and problems in order to build effective interpersonal communication (Fox, 2018). Without this skill, there will be many misunderstandings and issues.
- Transparency and openness allow the army leadership to make sure that all their messages, including the positive and the negative ones, will be received effectively and with respect (Fox, 2018).
- Self-control: regardless of the situation, an army leader must be stable and control their voice, emotions, and gestures in order to remain authoritative and keep control over soldiers (VanSciver, 2017).
- tact allows the military commanders to convey and receive respect and act with a greater sense of empathy to ensure strong relationships between the army members.
Overall, the skills mentioned above are necessary for every leader and even for every ordinary person who wants to communicate effectively. However, these skills also play a significant role in military leadership, even though some may argue that.
To conclude, one may say that communication is an integral part of every leader, and communicating effectively and considering non-verbal signals in the military is particularly important. Indeed, there are specific similarities and differences between interpersonal communication in military leadership and the management of a firm. There is also a difference in the primary functions of communication. Overall, army leaders need to remember that not only their stern looks, harsh voices, and abrupt movements are the key to keeping the soldiers under control. The military leadership also needs to learn various tools and elements of effective communication to send informational messages and ensure that the soldiers are motivated to achieve common values and interests.
Fox, T. (2018). A four-star general’s leadership advice: ‘Communicate, communicate and communicate.’ The Washington Post. Web.
Lewińska, M. (2015). The role of communication in military leadership. Journal of Corporate Responsibility and Leadership, 2(1), 37-49.
VanSciver, J. (2017). Interpersonal communication. Army University Press. Web.