The Power of Leading Subtly: Alan Greenspan, Rhetorical Leadership, and Monetary Policy

Document Type



Economics (CMC), Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)

Publication Date



Alan Greenspan's tenure as Federal Reserve Board Chairman has been highlighted by his highly publicized leadership. One important and readily visible manifestation of his leadership has been his communication style. While research concerning the communication component of leadership has primarily analyzed CEO and presidential communications, this paper utilizes content analysis to provide a descriptive analysis of Chairman Greenspan's communications and his responsiveness to changes in the economic environment. We find that during down periods in the economy, the Chairman communicates that the situation is less certain with reduced amount of activity and an emphasis on present tense language that indicates that current concerns are paramount. In contrast, during buoyant periods of economic activity, the Chairman's language indicates a stronger sense of certainty. Such language patterns help the public place their economic circumstances in context, and may contribute to perceptions of Greenspan's effectiveness as a leader.

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© 2007 Elsevier B.V.

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