Leadership Is a Conversation

“Leadership” is a lot like a U.S. Supreme Court Justice once described pornography: “Hard to define, but easy to recognize when you see it!” All joking aside, defining leadership is important for those of us who are interested in being effective leaders.

A recent Harvard Business Review (June 2012) article, “Leadership is a Conversation” by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind, does a great job of defining positive leadership through the art of conversation. (The two also teamed up to write the book, Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power their Organizations, Harvard Business Review Press, 2012). In my book, Building a Winning Business, I dedicate five chapters in the leadership section to the topic of communication. There also are five other chapters sprinkled throughout the rest of the book on the importance of communication, including chapter 18 (Involve the Team when Defining Values), chapter 28 (Let Everyone Weigh In), chapter 41 (Communicate at the Beginning to Avoid Problems at the end) and chapter 46 (Communicate Early and Often).

So, please believe me when I tell you that I’m excited about this new work by Groysberg and Slind, which goes way beyond the One Minute Manager concept and includes observations based on interviews with nearly 150 people at more than 100 companies: large and small, blue chip and start up, for profit and non-profit, U.S. and international. Building upon insights and examples gleaned from this research, they developed a model of leadership called “Organizational Conversation,” which they define as having the following attributes: (1) intimacy, (2) interactivity, (3) inclusion and (4) intentionality.

“Talking with employees, rather than to them, can promote operational flexibility, employee engagement and tight strategic alignment,” notes Groysberg, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and Slind, a professional writer and editor.

I’m going to take some time to explore “Organizational Conversation” as a leadership model in my upcoming posts. I’ll also share some of the lessons learned along these lines at Intertech. Please share your thoughts and observations too. After all, a conversation can only happen when there is an open exchange of ideas and information!

Next post: Just what, exactly, is Leadership Communication?