Organisational Dialogue and Relational Leadership

Dialogue is more than just having a conversation. Genuine dialogue describes a way of interacting that is mutual, relational, attentive and meaningful.

In dialogue we fully ‘turn towards’ each other - we attend with curiosity to what each other are saying and together we develop ideas and insights that only become possible through responding to, and building on, what each other is saying.

Productive and insightful dialogue is developed alongside our capacity for curiosity and thoughtful inquiry, attentive listening, skilful challenging and care and compassion. Self-awareness, empathy, an understanding of power, group dynamics and the forces at play within organisational systems, all aid our ability to think and speak well together.

My research examines what helps to cultivate dialogue within leadership relations and what gets in the way – see this article in Forbes Magazine which explains my interest in changing conversational habits through being more mindful. 

I regard ‘leadership’ as more than a hierarchical position. To confine our understanding of leadership to those who happen to be in senior roles is to greatly underestimate and silence all those inside our organisations who have the capacity to influence and who collectively create organisational culture through their interactions.

Relational leadership acknowledges that the process of leadership can only occur in relation – and is often more complex than having ‘a’ single leader and ‘a’ follower. We recognise leadership in ourselves and in others for a whole variety of reasons. We may consider someone to be ‘leading’ us in some ways, but not in others, in this context but not in that, and at that moment in time but not in this. Similarly, we may be both ‘following’ and ‘leading’ at the same time, dynamically.

Traditional leadership development approaches underestimate this complexity and can end up focusing on self-indulgent and simplistic approaches aimed at ‘getting leaders what they want’. I prefer to teach and facilitate in a way that respects the relational interactions through which leadership is constructed and recognised. I focus on a broader concept of what and who is leadership for and, given the unique context within which we all work, what ‘counts’ as leadership?

I am particularly interested therefore in Mindful Leadership and developing an individual’s, a team’s or an organisation’s ability to be aware and choiceful through the moment by moment ways in which they demonstrate leadership.

I am also interested in the way power infuses leadership and the implications of perceived power differences on our capacity to develop dialogue as discussed in my latest book Speak Up

If you are interested in discussing these ideas more and to find out more about how I work with leadership teams to develop conversational habits, which enable dialogue, please contact me here and see my publications listed in the media tab.