How Powerful Leaders Communicate Their Visions

How do influential leaders use language to engage followers? Can we distinguish a toxic leader from an ethical one based on use of language? A new study in the Journal of Management Inquiry (JMI) highlights the fascinating differences in the rhetoric of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Adolf Hitler to understand how different types of charismatic leaders communicate their visions. Jill L. Robinson and Danielle Topping, both of the University of Redlands, published “The Rhetoric of Power: A Comparison of Hitler and Martin Luther King Jr.”  on July 24, 2012 in JMI. Click here to read more OnlineFirst articles.

The abstract:

Charismatic leaders present intriguing examples of the use of power through language. The prevailing neo-charismatic perspective, however, is based predominately on Western theories and research examining U.S. presidents. This study moves beyond this sample by examining language differences between a moral and a toxic leader. Content analysis was used to explore the rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr. and Adolf Hitler, whose distinct motives play out over their careers and during crises. Although some differences were predictable (i.e., Martin Luther King Jr. used more Optimistic language, whereas Hitler was higher in Power and Aggression), the changes over time suggest keys to their differing motives. Among other findings, Martin Luther King Jr. was remarkably consistent in his rhetoric, whereas Hitler used increasing Power and Aggressive language as his career progressed. While not providing definitive answers, these preliminary results suggest that further study is warranted into the complex interactions between rhetoric and leadership.

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This entry was posted in Communication, Leadership by Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, Management INK. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Editor, Management INK

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 900 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, and Washington DC, our publishing programme includes more than 560 journals and over 800 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

2 thoughts on “How Powerful Leaders Communicate Their Visions

  1. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you ought to
    publish more on this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but typically people do not speak about such subjects.
    To the next! Kind regards!!

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