Friday, August 19, 2016

Menu

UTSA professor’s new study emphasizes the impact of leaders’ language

UTSA professor's new study emphasizes the impact of leaders' language

Share this Story

(May 31, 2016) -- A new study by Jonathan R. Clark, assistant professor of management at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), states that the language of leaders has a profound effect on the performance of their employees. Clark’s top-tier research, published in Organizational Dynamics, shows that how a company presents its vision and values is deeply entwined with its overall success.

“Surveys have shown that only about 18 percent of workers are happy and engaged at work,” Clark said. “We believe part of the problem is that organizations have largely become economic vehicles and, as a result, leadership in those organizations has largely become an exercise in financial engineering.”

That narrow purpose is apparent in most companies’ vision statements, as they often use abstract language instead of vivid imagery.

Clark noted that many banks, for example, use vague statements that all sound similar such as, “We will be the preferred provider of targeted financial services. We will strengthen these relationships and provide the right solutions.”

He says that kind of language is conceptual and does little to tell the clients, or even the employees, what the company’s vision is.

Clark considers Toys ’R Us an example of an organization that had a strong vision statement. Its previous statement reads, “Our vision is to put joy in kids’ hearts and a smile on parents’ faces.”

“Everyone can imagine a kid, everyone knows what joy feels like and everyone can imagine a parent with their child smiling,” Clark said. “That’s what makes something vivid: when you have concrete objects and behaviors that people can actually imagine in their minds.”

According to Clark’s research, the best-performing organizations frequently have well-coordinated employees operating under a vivid vision statement that is consistently interpreted in the same way by employees. He and his colleagues also discovered that a focused set of values can have positive effects if used beyond mission statements.

In his study, Clark used the Cleveland Clinic, a mid-western health system, as an example of an organization that changed its ways by emphasizing the needs and comfort of its patients. The center’s CEO began by communicating a new vision using vivid language, but took it a step further by making certain that every employee, from surgeons to janitors, were referred to as “caregivers.”

“A leader provides focus for people and points them toward a specific set of values that guide action within the organization,” said Clark. “In that sense, the language that leaders use is absolutely critical.”

-- Joanna Carver
Public Affairs Specialist

----------------------------

Read Jonathan R. Clark’s study, “How the language of leaders drives performance.”

Learn more about the UTSA Department of Management.

Connect online at FacebookTwitter, YouTubeInstagram and UTSA Today.

 

UTSA's Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA's Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA's Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

Connect with UTSA News

       


Related Links

Back to Top

©2016 The University of Texas at San Antonio  | One UTSA Circle San Antonio, TX 78249 | Information 210-458-4011

Produced by University Communications and Marketing