Developing Conversational Leadership

by  Tal Shnall  |  Self Leadership

“The task of leadership is to be intentional about the way we group people and the questions what we engage them in.” Peter Block

For as long as we have lived in human community, great conversations have been the source of fresh ideas. Conversations engage us with the rest of the world and embrace relationships with others. Conversation is our human way of discovering new meaning that shape our future.  Through conversations that matters we continue to develop collective thinking that serve the world for a better future.

All of us have, at some point of time or another experienced a conversation that had a magical impact that sparked a new insight or helped us see a situation in a new light. Through conversations, we discover what we value and what we share together. Great conversations create spaces for authentic dialogue and an effective collaboration across generations that act as a catalyst for change and innovation across the world.

What is conversational leadership?

Conversational leadership begins with the philosophy of embracing collective brainpower – the appreciation that we can be smarter, more creative, and more capable together than we could alone. The challenges we face are global and complex to solve alone. Conversational leadership takes place when leaders see their organizations as webs of conversation and consider a conversation as a core process for effective positive change. Great leaders use conversational leadership by cultivating intentional collective intelligence needed to create business and communal value. By initiating, convening, and holding a conversation that matters, leaders have unparalleled ways to tap everyone’s collective intelligence which can guide action towards a shared vision.

Conversational leadership requires leaders to be connectors – people who can cultivate and nurture diverse point of views inside their organization or community.

As leaders we make meaning though the language we communicate. Most importantly, it’s the stories we share together for a collective meaning. When we embrace a conversation through leadership, we take time to understand and listen deeply to all that matter. Each generation has important skills and wisdom from their own life experiences which we need to honor and recognize. Every leader should ask, “How we can honor and utilize each other unique contributions and gifts to foster collective wisdom and co-create our future?”

The leader’s ability to facilitate leadership conversations that enhance trust will become important leadership skills. To succeed, leaders will need to work on their communication skills in the use of dialogue and other approaches that deepen collective inquiry. Leaders have the responsibility to create and host spaces for dialogue and engagement that encourages others at all levels to develop insightful conversations.

“A leader these days needs to be a host, one who convenes diversity, who convenes all viewpoints in creative process where our mutual intelligence can come forth.” Margaret Wheatley

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What People Are Saying

Johann Gauthier  |  11 Jun 2013  |  Reply

Wow ! I really appreciate this concept Tal ! Never heard of this before now.
I find we can easily get lost with #leadershipthese days and your post helps us focus on what is essential. I particularly liked the following quote:
“Conversational leadership takes place when leaders see their organizations as webs of conversation and consider a conversation as a core process for effective positive change.”
Leadership is relational and how leaders engage others is key…
Thanks for raising the discourse on the subject !

Dr. Ada  |  12 Jun 2013  |  Reply

I see conversations as the heart of leadership. In fact, my leadership development program is based on this idea. When a leader knows how to open a safe and creative space for conversations and collaboration, he/she doesn’t have to worry about “buy in” or “convincing.” Good ideas emerge naturally from the collective intelligence and everybody is committed to take action. Thanks for a great post!

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