COMMUNICATING AS LEADERS

Another requirement for the Leader Advancement Scholar and Leadership minor is COM 461L Communication in Leadership. Similar to LDR 200 this course was about theories and concepts centered around how leaders communicate to become more effective. I felt this course was the most beneficial so far in my Leadership minor coursework and LAS protocol. Walking away from COM 461L I am more aware of my leadership style and approach in regards to communication.

This topic of communication is vital for any leader to understand because it is the biggest channel that we use to lead and influence others. This goes for verbal and non-verbal forms. How you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. Being self aware of your values and preferences will allow you to communicate more effectively when leading. A few topics we discussed in class were impression management, charismatic leadership, power, influence, diversity, virtual communication, followership, public leadership, and my favorite, organizational leadership. I’ve learned about many of these concepts related to leadership previously, but seeing them through the lenses of communication was very interesting to me because I learned that what a say, how I say it, and whom I’m saying it to can effect my ability to lead.

There were six case studies assigned throughout the semester highlighting and giving an example about a certain topic we were learning in class. One that I thought was interesting was titled “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity”. Who doesn’t love Disney and Pixar? They are one of few companies who has the influence of love and happiness. But how do they do it? It starts with their leadership and culture. This case study showed me what organizational leadership is all about why it is key to understanding how to successfully lead an organization.

Important characteristics of an organization include a social collectivity of individuals, established collective goals, activity arranged among individuals and groups, structure, and lastly a surrounding environment of other organizations. The reason Pixar is such a successful company is that their authorities have a deep understanding of organizational leadership. Leaders at Pixar have established a culture and a set of values that guide those within each day. Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter has accomplished many great things for the company by shaping organizational culture and climate. He said “everything we touch needs to be excellent” which is a value and standard that Pixar holds for its team members. This value was challenged during a crisis that Pixar experience in 1998. During the production of Toy Story 2 the newly selected creative team was not effectively performing and was way behind schedule which threw the company into complete dismay. As the director, Lasseter had to make a decision quick to save the company and continue its success. His reaction was to assign the project to the original team that produced Toy Story (who at that time was already working on A Bug’s Life). Through excruciating long hours and incredible amounts of stress the organization was able to stay true to its values and continue its success. Lasseter believes it is management’s job to recover the organization when failure occurs and because of this he was able to save his company. To prevent future problems from occurring Lasseter created “the brain trust” and “the dailies”. These helped shape Pixar’s “peer culture” which is an environment that supports great people and encourages them to support one another. The two procedures serve as a way of bringing the organization together and enrich values of trust, honesty, excellence, respect, and community. During these processes a team member will present its peers with their current work and receive constructive criticism and respectful discussion. Lasseter said that the practice of working together as peers is core to their culture.

There is a lot to learn from Lasseter’s leadership style in regards to communication. His story has influenced me to be more aware of those involved in the organizations I lead and to put a focus on communicating organizational culture and values. In my time here at CMU I’ve been honored to serve many organizations and I’m excited to apply the concepts I’ve learned in this course to my own leadership style for the goal of continuing my organizations’ success.

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