Using as an example an actual leader, how does the Communication Process Model apply in the case of successful leadership traits evidenced by that leader in multiple instances? How much of the leadership event is a function of individual traits housed within the leader… versus how much is a result of the numerous factors discussed in the Communication Process Model? Assign each trait or factor a number: Is it 90% to 10%? Is it 50% to 50%? Is it 25% to 75%?
What does your example tell us about the relative influence of the components of the Communication Process Model and Trait Theory?
The Communication Process Model presents a useful illustration of the manner in which communications occur. Its greatest strength is its inclusion of personality traits and the influences of one’s experiences, education and personal relationships. Almost all human beings are shaped to one degree or another by their environment, and the manner in which they interact with others often reflects that history.
Because of their high-profile professions and public lives, examples can be drawn from politicians. Politicians are, by definition, leaders of their communities for whom an ability to communicate is a sine qua non of their chosen profession. Certain politicians have been particularly well-known for their ability to communicate persuasively, most prominently, within the current era, Presidents Reagan and Clinton.
Ronald Reagan, labeled “the Great Communicator,” was a former president of the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), the union representing professional actors, which proved very influential in the development of his political philosophy. As an active member, and eventual leader of SAG, Reagan was exposed to the political machinations of what he considered the pernicious influence of fellow actors whose extremely liberal politics he felt threatened the integrity of the film industry as well as the country’s broader security. Combined with his superior skills communicating ideas – skills developed as a product of his experience as a professional actor – Reagan proved a formidable force in American, and later world, politics. There is no question that his speeches accurately reflected his thoughts, and his ability to communicate those thoughts were frequently influential in shaping public perceptions.
An example of Reagan’s ability to communicate involved what has been derisively referred to as his “Star Wars” speech of March 23, 1983. Reagan’s history of strongly opposing communism, a product, as mentioned, of his experiences in SAG, combined with his visceral hatred of the Soviet Union and its totalitarian system, prompted him to propose the development of a system to defend the U.S. against Soviet missiles, officially called “the Strategic Defense Initiative.” Reagan’s speech announcing this initiative reflected his experiences, personality, and strong belief that the Soviet Union posed a serious threat to the U.S.
Another example could be Reagan’s June 12, 1987, challenge to new Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” The Berlin Wall was the most visible and enduring symbol of the Cold War. Gorbachev, in a major departure from the policies of his predecessors, sought to greatly reduce or eliminate the notion of a “Soviet threat” while restructuring his country’s economic and political systems. Reagan’s speech, however, helped to force the issue and prompt Gorbachev to take that historical step. Again, Reagan’s personal history and leadership skills were manifested in that 1987 speech in West Germany.
One could attribute Reagan’s experiences in politics, including his presidency of SAG, the majority of points, say, 60 percent. Another 20 percent could be attributed to his ability to communicate to receptive audiences, both Americans concerned about the Soviet Union and Europeans tired of the Cold War. The final 20 percent could be attributed to the language employed by his speechwriters, especially the demand to tear down that wall.