A New View of Leadership

By Chris Chittenden

The role of leadership is crucial to organisational success in today’s competitive world. Why is this the case? We claim that leaders "manage what could be" whereas managers "manage what is". In other words, management is about delivering outcomes within the existing organisational structure and systems whereas leaders look to the future and create the organisations of tomorrow. It is the role of leaders to position their organisation to meet challenges that might not exist today and so continue to prosper.

By definition, a leader must have followers. To that end, we also say that leaders take people where they would not go by themselves. It is likely that those places will feel uncomfortable and possibly threatening. To take people to such places a leader must have instilled in those followers a strong sense of trust and that trust can only be built on the positive assessments of the relationships with the leader.

Hence we believe that to be highly effective, organisational leaders need to develop a way of being that will enhance how they relate and converse with others. We see this as being in three domains – language, emotions and physical presence.

Leaders and Language

The art of leadership is by and large the art of influence. We believe the core competence required to influence others is that of "conversational labour". "Conversational labour" is the term we use to encompass the conversations that people have in order to get things done. We have found that when we explore what leaders do all day, it always boils down to conversation whether it be face to face, over the phone or through a written medium. It follows that the more adept a leader is at the art of conversation, the more effective they will be at the art of influencing others.

So what is it that will influence others? We claim that one of the primary aspects of being an effective leader is to seduce others with their narratives. By this we mean that they must provide a powerful story to which people will relate to such an extent that it will provide a potent motivation for them. We claim that people buy stories and the stories that the leaders are offering are about the future. For leaders to achieve this, they must use various types of conversations to firstly make the narrative powerful and then coordinate the activity to make it a reality.

Leaders and Emotions

We claim that human beings are emotional beings and that our moods and emotions predispose us to some actions and not others. For example, when we are angry we are more predisposed to aggressive action than we would be when we are happy. We talk of a variety of things having a mood – a day of the week, a city and most importantly from a leader’s perspective, an organisation. We also claim those moods are very contagious. People catch moods from each other and from the organisation in which they work. We see one of the leader’s most important roles as establishing an organisational mood that is conducive to people taking the actions required for achieving the organisation’s goals.

Therefore an understanding of moods and emotions, and what actions we can take to manage moods and emotions for both themselves and others are critical if a leader is to establish the organisational mood required for moving forward.

Leaders and Physical Presence

Many people in an organisation do not have a lot of close conversational contact with the organisation’s leader, however the leader can still have an impact on those people through their presence. How? According to studies, up to 70% of what we listen to, we observe in the body of the person delivering the message. Even, when they are not speaking directly to someone, they are being observed and so it is vital for a leader to carry themselves in a way that stamps them as someone to follow.

It is our view that there is a very clear link between a human being’s language, emotions and physical being such that others will instinctively recognise a misalignment in these domains and distrust may develop.

Talking About Leadership

Talking About Pty Ltd provides a different and effective approach to leadership that focuses on the personal way of being for potential or existing leaders through our workshops and coaching.

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© 2000 & 2005 Chris Chittenden