Human communication

Communication skills predict who emerges as a team leader at work

BUFFALO, NY — If you want to be seen as a leader, work on your public speaking skills — according to a new study from the University at Buffalo School of Management, which found that strong communication skills reliably predict the emergence of leadership in teams.

The article, forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology, challenges the long-held assumption that extroverts are naturally charismatic speakers, giving extroverts an edge when it comes to being viewed as a leadership material.

“Extroverts tend to put themselves at the center of social interactions, which gives them the opportunity to bond with teammates,” says James Lemoine, PhD, associate professor of organization and human resources at the UB School of Management. “But like other personality traits, extraversion reflects a tendency to engage in these behaviors — not necessarily the ability to do so successfully.”

In other words, just because people are outgoing and talkative doesn’t mean they communicate effectively and inspire others to see them as leaders. Lemoine and his co-authors set out to untangle extroversion and communication skills to see what really motivated leadership in teams.

To do this, the researchers conducted two studies with more than 630 people divided into 140 teams. Participants were randomly assigned to roles within a fictional company and had to reach consensus within their teams on two issues: hiring a new leader and identifying a new initiative. for the company. Along the way, experts rated their communication skills across six metrics, and participants completed a personality assessment and rated their peers on leadership.

“In both studies, extraversion and communication skills were not significantly correlated,” says Lemoine, “and it was communication skills that most consistently affected those identified as leaders within their teams.” .

For organizations — and introverts — the study is good news, says Lemoine.

“While extroversion is a trait you’re born with, communication skills can be developed over time,” says Lemoine. “Employees who learn to speak with confidence and clarity, and who use appropriate nonverbal cues, are more likely to be seen as leaders when working in teams. In turn, they will have more opportunities to make a positive difference within their team and organization, and to advance their own careers.

“For organizations,” continues Lemoine, “studies show that effective communication can positively influence job performance and other critical outcomes – making training programs focused on communication skills a good investment in their success as well. .”

The study was led by Tyree Mitchell, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Leadership and Human Resource Development at Louisiana State University, and co-authored by Lemoine and Diana Lee, BS ’18, PhD candidate at LeBow College, Drexel University. work.

The UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on real-world learning, community and economic impact, and the global perspective of its faculty, students, and alumni. The school has also been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, and US News & World Report for the quality of its programs and the return on investment it offers its graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit