the lack of open communication from within an
organization has a negative impact on the management of
the organization, and ultimately does not allow for a
transparent model of communications in the agency. As
Redmund (2011) noted, “a fast-changing world demands
self-awareness among its leaders, particularly those who
manage communications in an increasingly transparent
environment” (p. 40).
Leadership is fundamental to improving (emphasis added)
groups, organizations, and society and communication is
fundamental to leadership. Leadership is an interactive
process through which leaders and followers develop an
effective approach to collective goals. Increasing
understanding of the leadership process and the
communication involved enhances the skills of all
participants and fosters more effective collaboration.
Nonetheless, for our purposes here we must also focus on
the function of improvement as a leadership commitment.
Our study explored the differences in the leadership
beliefs behaviors most often identified as either
transactional or transformational leadership.
According to Hackman and Johnson (2009) communication is
an integral part of both the internal and external
process of leaders. Leaders must face many obstacles
and challenging situations. As they personally deal
with issues they make decisions that affect their lives
and the lives of others. Intrapersonal communication
plays an important role in the decision making process
and for personal development of the leader. It is this
internal belief system of the leader that determines
his/her leadership style – whether it be primarily
transactional or transformational.
According to Burns (2008), transactional leaders focus
on increasing the efficiency of established routines and
procedures and are more concerned with following
existing rules than with making changes to the structure
of the organization. They also are concerned more with
clearly designed organizational processes rather than
forward-thinking ideas. Basically, transactional
leadership styles are more concerned with maintaining
the normal flow of operations.
James MacGregor Burns (2008) further distinguished
between transactional leaders and transformational
leaders by explaining that: transactional leaders
exchange tangible rewards for the work and loyalty of
Transformational leaders on the other hand are leaders
who engage with followers, focus on higher order
intrinsic needs, and raise consciousness about the
significance of specific outcomes and new ways in which
those outcomes might be achieved. A transformational
leader goes beyond managing day-to-day operations and
crafts strategies for taking his organization to the
next level of performance and success.
Case Study –
Communications in the Public Sector
As the former Director of Communications in a public
state agency on the central coast of California, one of
the researchers of this study spent the past two decades
overseeing and counseling the state agency management on
the internal and external communications efforts. In
this role, it allowed the researcher to oversee the
public relations office and the duties included
disseminating communications regarding the agency to
fellow employees, media, and outside stakeholders.
Unfortunately, his position within the organization as
rank-in-file was not part of the management team and did
not foster direct oversight for crafting the
communication messages and counseling those in top
management on message content and timing of release to
employees, media contacts, stakeholders, and external
Although the communications were for the most part
accurate, the communications efforts lacked involvement
from all aspects of the internal and external publics to
the organization. In his attempts to counsel management
on sensitive issues in and outside of the organization,
his influence on management was limited due to a
transactional style of management apparent in the
agency. This authoritative style of management was
pervasive in the agency as a way to follow strict
written polices and allow managers and supervisors to
flex their muscles and maintain power in and outside of
the organization. This style of transactional management
lead to a lack of leadership as noted by Werder and
Holtzhausen (2009), “transactional leaders use
organizational bureaucracy, culture, standard, policy,
power and authority to maintain control” (p. 405).
In his practice of communications and public relations,
he tried to implement a transformational style of
leadership, instead of the transactional styles so
pervasive in the agency. Regarding the skills employed
by the transformational leader, Meng et al (2012)
asserts, “this perspective is concerned with emotions,
values, ethics, and long-term relationships, as well as
followers’ motives, needs, and satisfaction” (p.22). By
implementing a transformational leadership style, it
allowed him to validate and collaborate with employees
and external publics and ultimately in my attempts to
bring their issues back to the management. As Werder and
Holtzhausen (2009) noted regarding transformational
leaders, “ they are innovative, charismatic, and
accomplish goals by motivating people to a higher
standard than that of their own self-interest, for the
good of the group or organization (p. 406).
The lack of involvement in a social exchange process by
the management with regard to their internal and
external publics limited the effectiveness of the
communications efforts from the agency. Eisenberg (2007)
concluded, “in fact, new perspectives on leadership view
communicative ability as the most important attribute of
a leader and argue for “communication as the essential
component of inspiration and change” (as cited in Werder
& Holtzhausen, 2009, p. 406).
As a rank-in-file employee, his role as the public
relations director allowed a limited ability to fully
consult and influence the upper management regarding
content and timing of agency communications creating an
ethical dilemma. As Lee (2010) noted, “Ethical dilemmas,
emerging when values clash, are especially challenging
in public relations where practitioners encounter
numerous public, stakeholders and competing priorities”
(p. 185). At times he was directed by upper management
to disseminate communications that were not
collaborative with our stakeholders, but simply
informing the public through communications that were
tied directly to agency policy and procedures based on a
transactional management style.
By using a transformational leadership style his role as
a communicator and public relations leader could have
shaped the organization and influenced upper management
to be more inclusive in their communications efforts.
Unfortunately, this did not occur due to an
organizational culture that did not allow for a change
to a transformational leadership style and providing for
two-way symmetrical communications.
Recommendations for Practice
The results of the case study indicate public agencies
could benefit from the effects of transformational
leadership with regard to the public relations
practitioner influencing upper management with their
communication practices. Meng (2012) concluded, “for
public relations to continue generating impact on
organizational decision-making process, it is important
for both practitioners and researchers to assess the
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