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Leveraging Technology in Leadership Communication by Carolyn Mae Kim
Dr. Carolyn Mae Kim has a new book out about leadership and the role technology can play in building ethical leadership. Published by Routledge, this new book is titled Leveraging Technology in Leadership Communication. Below I review this brand new book.
But before we start, I must admit my bias up front in reviewing this book. In my social media class, I use one of Dr. Kim’s other books, Social Media Campaigns: Strategies for Public Relations and Marketing (I reviewed the first edition of this book in 2016. I currently use the second edition in my class).
Professor Kim is someone I have long-admired. She is a leader in public relations education and the work she has done in helping build the PR program at Biola University is an inspiration. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from her as well as work with her on a few projects and I know her to be a person of exceptional character. Lastly, I had the opportunity to make a small contributions to this book in a leadership spotlight (more on that below). So, again, fair warning: the review you will find below is biased.
Why a Book About Technology and Leadership Communication?
Hundreds of books have been written about leadership, including those from legendary sports coaches and business executes. What makes this book unique is its focus on the role of ever-evolving technology in leadership and how leaders can leverage digital technology to effectively communicate.
Technology has and will continue to have a marked impact on how organizations functions and businesses run. This book is germane to work life today given the proliferation of remote working, hybrid workspaces, and dispersed teams and the challenges of managing them. More and more people are looking for remote work options. This emergent environment demands that leaders quickly learn to manage dispersed teams through video conferencing, chat apps, and collaborative software.
As Kim points out in the first chapter of the book, leadership training in organizations is thought to be lacking and employees often feel their leaders are not equipped to lead. And that research was conducted in 2015, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Have leaders adapted to the remote working world that is strung together not by office space but by Slack and Zoom? Do they understand how to manage in these environments? Have they been trained on how to communicate effectively in this digital world?
As Dr. Kim astutely states in the preface, the goal of the use of technology by leaders is not about efficiencies but about use of technology “in order to dynamically influence the followers that a leader is guiding toward a common goal.”
Who Is This Book For?
Considering the above, there is widespread need for preparing future leaders to thrive in a digital-first work environment. This book can help current and future leaders across disciplines and could be incorporated into an array of classes. Further, the book could be used in leadership curricula as universities are pushing leadership training, such as the Leadership for a Better World Certificate offered at Shepherd University where I work.
I sense the book would be particularly relevant to communication undergraduate seminars, capstone courses, as well as in graduate seminars. This book may also appeal to MBA programs.
On the back cover of the text, Routledge promotes this book as a supplementary reading in undergraduate and graduate courses focused on organizational, leadership, corporate and internal communication.
What’s In Leveraging Technology in Leadership Communication?
In terms of the book’s contents, the book begins with an argument for the importance of understanding leadership approaches, the role of communication in leadership, and opportunities for leadership development to improve. Chapter 2 discusses the rise of mediated technology and situates the role of the digital ecosystem in a media ecology framework. In discussing communication models, the chapter and introduces a meaning-making matrix for digital technology.
Chapter 3 looks at internal-facing technologies and their use in internal organizational leadership communication. Chapter 4 argues that executive leaders should build an executive brand (like a personal brand for executive leaders). Technology is leveraged in building this executive brand which aims to establish credibility and communicate effectively internally and externally.
I particularly enjoyed Chapter 5 on Work-Life Rhythm, Technology, and Professional Thriving (pp. 98-113). This all-important section of the book emphasizes to students the importance of finding balance and asserting for one’s needs in our always-on culture (Example: A recent report in the Wall Street Journal discusses the stress-inducing nature of ‘off-hour’ emails, despite the sender’s intent). As I’ve alluded to a little on this blog, I’ve spent a good amount of time in recent years focused on embracing work-life balance and modeling a 360 degree view of life for my students.
The final chapter examines the larger ethical and co-supportive relationship between leaders and followers as the communication environment shifts away from formality and hierarchy, the change-pace of technology accelerates, and uncertainty and disruption in the political and social environment settle in for an extended stay.
Each chapter contains a leadership spotlight with practitioners and educators in the technology and leadership space. These question and answer interviews offer readers insights, advice, recommendations and perspectives on leveraging technology in leadership. I am thankful to Dr. Kim for inviting me to participate in a leadership spotlight, which you can read on pages 23-26 in Chapter 2. Each chapter also contains reflection questions and an application activity for engaged learning.
Like Dr. Kim’s social media campaigns text, the writing is clear, succinct and easy to follow. What is necessary is present and there is no bloat. This approach gets a win in my book because I feel that students are more apt to read a fluff-free book.
The focus of this book on leadership, technology, and communication could not be more timely considering pandemic world we find ourselves suspended in. Fears about the impact of technology in society have loomed large in the news cycle in recent months. Twitter and LinkedIn are ripe with discussions about burnout and work-life balance while hustle culture remains a thriving force; we can always be available for a quick Zoom meeting, right?
Thus, it is a pleasure to see a book that takes a thoughtful approach to the role of technology as a tool for leadership communication. My hope has always been that we can use communication technology to build humane connections – whether those be interpersonal or organizational.
While I fear that there are those in the world who have sought to exploit or weaponize communication technology in recent years, I still believe there is much good that can come from bringing people together around a common cause. Leaders can leverage communication technology in a way that is both tactical and humane and I believe Dr. Kim’s book can be one such tool in educating future leaders towards this aim.
Disclosure regarding my work on this textbook: I received a free copy of this book by the publisher, Routledge, following my contribution of a leadership spotlight in this book. I was not asked to write a review or promote the book in any way by the publisher or author. I have no financial stake in any revenue generated by the sales or rental of this textbook.