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How does leader communication style promote employees’ commitment at times of change?

Wenhao Luo (Department of Business Administration, School of Economics and Management, North China University of Technology, Beijing, China)
Lynda Jiwen Song (Department of Organization and Human Resource, School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China.)
Diether R Gebert (Department of Business Administration, School of Economics and Business, Tongji University, Shanghai, China.)
Kai Zhang (Department of Organization and Human Resource, School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China.)
Yunxia Feng (Department of Organization and Human Resource, School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China.)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 11 April 2016

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the structure of leader communication style in the context of organizational change. In doing so, the authors intend to shed more light on how leaders can effectively communicate change projects to their subordinates, which is viewed as the key to implementing change initiatives.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper builds an integrated conceptual model for understanding leader’s communication style and subordinates’ commitment to change. By analyzing subordinates’ different fears of change, the paper further proposes a multidimensional structure of leader communication style in the context of change. The authors then develop a scale to measure these different dimensions and test the relationship between the proposed communication style and subordinates’ affective commitment to change.

Findings

Leader communication style in the context of change is found to be composed of five dimensions: hope orientation, reality orientation, subordinate orientation, support orientation, and enforcement orientation. A cross-level field study of 31 teams and 194 members shows that hope orientation, subordinate orientation, and support orientation are positively associated with subordinates’ affective commitment to change.

Originality/value

This paper identifies a new structure of leader communication style that will lead to a richer understanding of how leaders communicate to their subordinates in the context of change. It also contributes to the leadership literature by implying effective ways of communicating change projects.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This study is supported by the Renmin University of China Research Program for Humanities and Social Sciences International Journals Publications (No. 2011030127).

Citation

Luo, W., Song, L.J., Gebert, D.R., Zhang, K. and Feng, Y. (2016), "How does leader communication style promote employees’ commitment at times of change?", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 242-262. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-11-2014-0204

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited