Leadership Conversations…Destined for Success?

Business concept: Head With Padlock on digital backgroundA recent infographic linking Emotional Intelligence (EI) to leadership success prompted me to reflect on what’s getting in way of leaders becoming more emotionally intelligent. My perspective is that much of the information provided around developing your EI is focused on answering the “why?” and the “what?” questions rather than helping with the “how?”. Yet in my coaching work, I encounter leaders who recognise the need to develop their EI, but struggle with how they can manage themselves to be more personally and interpersonally effective.


Over the last couple of years I’ve been looking at how the development of EI might be supported by other tools and techniques e.g. mindfulness, leadership presence, and dialogue. All of which can help answer the “how?” with regard to developing your EI. They also ultimately led me to the work of David Kantor. David has spent decades studying communication, and based on his research he has developed a model, Structural Dynamics that sets out why face to face communication succeeds or fails. From a leadership perspective, he takes the view that great leaders are skilled in shaping leadership conversations destined for success.


Structural Dynamics is based on four speech acts that can happen in any conversation. You can make a Move, “We need to shorten the time spent in these meetings.” You can Follow someone else’s Move, “Yes, I’ve been concerned about the same thing.” You can Oppose “I don’t accept that, we need time to cover every topic on the agenda.” Or, you can step back from the situation and Bystand, reflecting on what you notice, without agreeing or disagreeing: “John wants shorter meetings, Helen wants to keep them the same length. What other views do we have?”.


The ability to read the room to understand what’s going on in terms of the structure and dynamics of the conversation, and to then choose the right speech act is the key to enabling the team to achieve a successful outcome. This skill can be developed and Structural Dynamics provides a practical framework to enable leaders to develop their skills in noticing the patterns of speech and in taking action to create a successful conversation. At last we have a framework that enables leaders to understand what is going on in the room, and to make a choice as to how they will create a conversation where everyone can speak with their true voice.


Structural Dynamics can also help the team develop their individual and collective EI, and provide the foundations for building a high performing team. A team where members can and will choose to: support good ideas, oppose things that won’t work, gain and explore other perspectives, and truly listen to what others are saying.


As a leader, how much would you want that for your team, for you, for your organisation?



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