Juan Meng, Pan, P., & Michael A. Cacciatore (2023). “The integrated role of adaptive leadership, sense of empathy, and communication transparency: A novel approach to trust building in public relations.” Research paper accepted to present at the 73rd annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA), May 25-29, 2023, Toronto, Canada.
Abstract: By adopting the theoretical framework of adaptive leadership, this research is designed to explore how an organization’s top leadership can support related adaptive action in strategic communication. Particularly, we hope to explore whether the application of adaptive leadership could facilitate a higher level of communication transparency, as well as deliver the sense of caring and empathy in COVID-19 communication. We used the adaptive leadership theory (Heifetz et al., 2009) as the main theoretical framework to guide our research. Adaptive leadership has been used effectively to explain how leaders encourage productive change across multiple levels, including self, organizational, community, and societal. An international online survey was designed and conducted for this study. Results confirmed that the perceived impact of the COVID-19 pandemic increased communication professionals’ challenge in building trust. It also drives adaptive changes in their coping action in strategic communication. More importantly, the top leadership within the organization played a key role in this adaptive leadership environment by demonstrating commitment to transparency in COVID-19 communication and delivering a sense of empathy during the pandemic.