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Communication Drives Thriving Cultures By Dr. Justin A. Irving

Communication is Essential!

Communication is an essential part of leadership. Although you can be an effective communicator without being an effective leader, it doesn’t work the other way around. Influential leaders are, by necessity, effective communicators.

The same can be said of effective and thriving organizations— such organizations do not exist without prioritizing meaningful communication. Consider the following observation: Communication is the lifeblood of an organization; if we could somehow remove communication flows from an organization, we would not have an organization. Communication permeates all activities in an organization.

One executive leader wrote in the survey, “Effective communication is always a mission-critical issue, both internally and externally.” Although effective is critical, it’s also challenging and very complex. An executive pastor of a large, multisite church put it this way: “Communication is incredibly complex as we get further away from each other geographically, add new staff, make changes, and attempt to keep our staff and church aligned.”

Other respondents echoed these observations. Communication issues noted by participants include technological complexities, the importance of communicating mission and vision, diverse follower communication styles, Communication within hybrid and dispersed teams, and the challenge of staying consistent with organizational messaging.

Even though Communication is difficult, getting it right is a vital dynamic in organizations. It is critical to organizational effectiveness. Research has demonstrated a link between effective organizational Communication and various variables, including managerial effectiveness, the integration of work units across organizational levels, characteristics of effective supervision, job and communication satisfaction, innovation, adaptability, creativity, and overall organizational effectiveness. If organizational leaders want to see their organizations thriving in such areas, they must prioritize effective leadership and organizational Communication.

The Nature of God as Communicator: Healthy Christian Leaders Look to God for His Example and Priorities in Communication

Throughout this book, we have been reflecting how the nature of God and his work in this world shapes our view of people and the work of leadership. As those made in God’s image, we should never be surprised to see how some of his attributes are reflected— even in faint ways— through our lives and work. The nature of human Communication provides an example of this.

Jonathan Edwards put it this way:

“The great and universal end of God’s creating the world was to communicate himself. God is a communicative being.” we are introduced to God’s communicative nature in the very first pages of Scripture. As God creates and fills the realms of creation over the six days outlined in Genesis 1, each day begins with the words “God said.” Of this work of creation, one commentary notes, “God accomplishes all his work by speaking. ‘God said . . .’ and everything happened. This lets us know that God’s power is more than sufficient to create and maintain creation.”

(Psalm 33:6 likewise affirms the speaking nature of God’s work in creation: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”

From God’s work in creation to his ongoing work of sustaining and upholding all things “by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3), we see God’s communicative nature displayed throughout the Bible. Tom Schreiner writes,

“The one true God is a speaking God, one who communicates with his people and reveals his will and his ways to them.”

Although humans reflect God’s spoken and communicative nature imperfectly, as those made in God’s image, people and leaders likewise approach many dimensions of their lives and leadership through Communication.

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This post is an excerpt from the Outcomes Conference 2024 Book of the Year, Healthy Leadership for Thriving Organizations: Creating Contexts Where People Flourish (Baker Academic December 2023). Content used with the permission of Baker Academic.

Dr. Justin A. Irving is the Duke K. McCall Professor of Christian Leadership and chair of the Department of Leadership and Discipleship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

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