Leadership remains, as it always was, basically concerned with communications. Transferring information—facts, values, ideas, and their meanings—is the heart of the leader’s task. Recent technological improvements, largely in the computer and telecommunications fields, have made possible important new developments in the way leaders—indeed, all people—move information. The effective use of information transfer techniques is critical. Even more critical to effective inner leadership is the need to control the type and content of its communications to followers so that the leader’s desires are realized in subsequent follower actions.
Several techniques are presently associated with the idea of attaining the inner leader’s desired performance. Among them are electronic mail, cellular telephone technologies, image processing, teleconferencing, fibre optics, and the Internet. A detailed discussion of features of each of these techniques is not pertinent to this discussion. Nevertheless, these technologies represent new, faster, more generally accessible channels of communication delivery that will continue to enhance and extend the scope of influence of both leaders and led.
These newer electronic techniques also represent alternative sources of information available to followers, sources that may make inner leadership both easier and more difficult. These new ways to communicate multiply the inner leaders communications options and the speed at which knowledge can be transferred. For example, e-mail has opened multiple channels of communication and information flow. As a result, work-community structural boundaries have become fuzzier and corporate culture looser, less formal, and less important to work communities in the inner levels of the corporation.
At the same time, as followers use these nonleader channels to get needed information, the influence of inner leaders is lessened, since a traditional source of leaders’ influence has been as prime conduits for external information needed by work-community members. E-mail focuses on the message, not the person communicating the message or his or her position in the hierarchy. It also breaks down barriers of gender or status in the work community. It takes away many normal formal social structural constraints.
While some of these factors move toward better communications systems, others may complicate, and even reduce, accountability for the communications between the leader and stakeholders. Nevertheless, these and the other communications techniques portend significant change in the manner and locus of leadership practice now and in the years to come. They do not change the purpose of most of the communications between inner leaders and their followers: to get them to think and act in ways the leader wants them to think and act.