Illusions of leadership

Leaders, by virtue of position, responsibilities and personal characteristics, possess power. And researchers have discovered power can affect the quality of a leader's communication with subordinates.

A study conducted in 2006 by Adam Galinsky, professor of management and organization at Evanston, Ill.-based Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, illustrates this point. Galinsky randomly assigned experimental subjects to high-power and low-power groups. He then asked subjects to perform a simple task—draw the capital letter "E" on their own foreheads. Most people in the low-power group drew the "E" with the spine on their right so the experimenter could read it. Most people in the high-power group drew the "E" in a self-oriented direction, with the spine on their left, backward to the experimenter.

The link to communication? Galinsky concluded people with power (whether randomly assigned or not) tend not to consider the perspectives of others or adjust their own behaviors when faced with the perspectives of others. This can affect communication negatively, resulting in messages that subordinates may not respond to because vital information is lacking.

Illusion of transparency