Article | Harvard Business Review | June 2012

Leadership Is a Conversation

by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind

Abstract

Globalization and new technologies have sharply reduced the efficacy of command-and-control management and its accompanying forms of corporate communication. In the course of a recent research project, the authors concluded that by talking with employees, rather than simply issuing orders, leaders can promote operational flexibility, employee engagement, and tight strategic alignment. Groysberg and Slind have identified four elements of organizational conversation that reflect the essential attributes of interpersonal conversation: intimacy, interactivity, inclusion, and intentionality. Intimacy shifts the focus from a top-down distribution of information to a bottom-up exchange of ideas. Organizational conversation is less corporate in tone and more casual. And it's less about issuing and taking orders than about asking and answering questions. Interactivity entails shunning the simplicity of monologue and embracing the unpredictable vitality of dialogue. Traditional one-way media—print and broadcast, in particular—give way to social media buttressed by social thinking. Inclusion turns employees into full-fledged conversation partners, entitling them to provide their own ideas, often on company channels. They can create content and act as brand ambassadors, thought leaders, and storytellers. Intentionality enables leaders and employees to derive strategically relevant action from the push and pull of discussion and debate.

Keywords: Employees; Management Style; Interpersonal Communication; Leadership; Cooperation; Partners and Partnerships;

Citation:

Groysberg, Boris, and Michael Slind. "Leadership Is a Conversation." Harvard Business Review 90, no. 6 (June 2012).