The Chief Executive Officer as Chief Communication Officer: Building a communication behavioural attributes framework

Donald Alexander

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    1222 Downloads (Pure)


    Chief Executive Officers need to be very competent communicators to withstand higher levels of scrutiny by external stakeholders (governments, investors, analysts, communities and activists). They must manage critical international relationships and cross-national and multicultural workplaces. This doctoral thesis examines what core communication attributes of a CEO are sought by the key external stakeholders of an organisation when they are assessing the leadership effectiveness of a CEO. Investors, analysts and the business media when making investment decisions, or deciding how to represent a CEO when reporting on them, have a vital role in how a CEO is perceived. Negative perceptions can create a loss of financial, social and reputational capital. This research makes a new and valuable contribution to the organisational communication, public relations, management and leadership literature as it presents a framework of communication attributes that a CEO needs to include in their management skill-set so they can understand the consequences of ineffective communication with external stakeholders. These behaviours/attributes have not been previously identified from the leadership, management, organisational communication or public relations literature, nor tested in the field with senior business media commentators and investors and analysts. The research draws on a range of academic disciplines to examine the complexities of CEO leadership and communication behaviours/attributes. This cross disciplinary approach has involved reviewing the business/management and leadership fields and communication theories from the social sciences, organisational communication and public relations. Systems theory underpins this research as connections between external stakeholders and a CEO need to exist in an open environment, not a closed one. An organisation must be able to adapt, maintain a flow of communication based on feedback, and allow for the creation and development of relationships. Relationship management, reputation management and two-way communication theories from public relations were also studied. Based on the pioneering work of Ferguson (1984) and Broom, Casey and Ritchey (2000), this thesis takes relationship management as the core theoretical construct on which the research and outcomes are based. The thesis contributes to the ongoing dialogue about what comprises replicable and measureable dimensions to the relationship management literature. This thesis explains the need for a new relational approach for CEOs so they can break away from past concepts of power and command and control xi management communication and develop more empathetic, dialogic, honest and trustworthy communication.Relationship management theory requires that the CEO is aware of the needs of their key stakeholders and that they ensure those stakeholders understand the purpose of their communication interactions. This research provides a framework of communication behavioural attributes that a CEO needs to consider to meet the communication expectations of key external stakeholders to attempt to ensure a mutually beneficial outcome. A strong link between a CEO and organisational reputation and ommunication was also established as a result of the research.The study used mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) to collect data and an interpretive qualitative analysis identified the core communication behaviours/attributes competencies from the managerial and communication literature. The result of this study will assist future boards and executive search companies to assess a new CEO communication competency dimension when seeking CEO candidates. This research also adds to the academic body of knowledge on relationship management as it provides firm evidence that the theoretical basis of the construct has a practical application that will be of value to those studying this field.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Sappey, Jennifer, Co-Supervisor
    • Tyson, Graham, Co-Supervisor
    • Anyanwu, Joe, Co-Supervisor
    • Fawkes, Johanna, Co-Supervisor
    • Carroll, John, Co-Supervisor
    Award date01 Jul 2014
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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