What’s your leadership conversational style? I’m learning more about the fine art of leadership conversations in Judith E. Glaser’s book, Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results.

If you’re a leader, you know how important it is to be able to influence others, inspire them to take action, and drive business results. You also know that you can’t use “the whip,” issue ultimatums, or hold up huge carrots to simply make it happen.

Leadership happens through conversations, whether one-to-one, or one-to-many. Obviously, positive conversations will work better than negative ones. But it can’t be that simple, right?

If you project positive intentions while in conversation, your employees will likely respond to questions and directives positively and feel more confident about taking risks and accomplishing tasks.

When you offer support and praise, employees perceive that you trust them and will often go the extra mile. Positive conversations obviate worries about belonging to the company or group.

Feel-good conversations trigger high levels of dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, and other chemicals that provide a sense of well-being that drives our state of mind. They help foster trusting relationships and influence our response to our coworkers and organizational demands.

Conflict and Conversations
Of course, negative conversations can occur despite our best intentions. Some people internalize messages based on what they think we said — not our actual words. As Glaser notes:

Unhealthy conversations are at the root of distrust, deceit, betrayal and avoidancewhich leads to lower productivity and innovation, and ultimately, lower success.

Some people look at conversations as arguments. When you want to win, you may go overboard as you persuade others to adopt your point of view. You push instead of attempting to pull others in your desired direction.

If you try to win at all costs, your conversations will trigger others’ primitive fight-or-flight response. Your conversation partner’s brain will effectively shut down, and he’ll no longer be open to influence. The conversation will hit a dead end.

Has this ever happened to you? I’m sure you’re not immune. In the work I do as a coach, I hear about conversations that go wrong, even with the best intentions.

Open interactions require you to be perceived as a friend, not foe. If you don’t pay attention to the trust issues, you’ll never convince or influence anyone.

Different Conversational Styles
Some people naturally expound and others inquire. But as a leader, you need a variety of conversational styles to suit the situation and your desired outcomes.

You need to know the leadership style most appropriate to the situation: authoritarian, authoritative, coaching, democratic, or supportive. Smart leaders know when to be directive and when to be inquisitive and supportive.

In my next post, I’ll explore Glaser’s three levels of conversations you can use, depending on what you’re trying to do as a leader.

  1. Level I: Transactional
  2. Level II: Positional
  3. Level III: Transformational

What are your thoughts about conversations as a leadership tool? I’d love to hear from you! Connect me here, or on LinkedIn and let me know.