Leadership is getting a makeover.
As Connecticut business managers have been forced to compete in a more volatile and complex environment, the traditional “command and control” approach to leadership has become less viable.
No matter what size the organization, factors like globalization and new technologies have created the need for new styles of leadership. The directive, “top-down” model of corporate leadership is now neither dynamic nor sophisticated enough to handle the increasingly complex flow of information among employees.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind proposed a new model of leadership in line with the needs of the 21st century manager. Called “organizational conversation,” the model was based on interviews with more than 150 leaders at all types or organizations (large and small, blue chip and start-up, for-profit and nonprofit, U.S. and international). After over two years of research, Groysberg and Slind concluded that today’s smart leaders:
- engage employees in a way similar to ordinary person-to-person conversations;
- foster cultural norms that instill conversational sensibility at all levels within the organization;
- talk to employees, rather than simply issuing orders.
As a result, the best leaders enjoy increased operational flexibility, higher levels of employee engagement and tighter strategic alignment – factors critical to thriving in a rapidly changing operating environment.
Organizational conversation is based on four essential elements of interpersonal communication:
- Intimacy. Successful organizational conversation requires managers to minimize the distances (be they attitudinal, institutional or spatial) that typically separate them from their employees. Conversationally adept leaders step down from their corporate perches and earn the trust (and attention) of their staff.
- Interactivity. Leaders must talk with employees and not just to them. To succeed, leaders must create a culture that encourages true dialog and provide staff with the tools and support they need to speak up and (when appropriate) talk back.
- Inclusion. Organizational conversation requires employees at all levels to share ownership of the substance of their discussions. As a result, everyone generates the content that makes up a company’s story. When a spirit of inclusion takes hold, engaged employees become the organization’s brand ambassadors, thought leaders and storytellers.
- Intentionality. Organizational conversations are open but not aimless. Over time, the many voices that contribute to the process of communication must converge on a single shared agenda that aligns with the company’s business objectives.
To learn more about each of these organizational conversation elements, and how to incorporate them in your leadership style, I strongly suggest reading the entire HBR article.
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