Leadership as Conversation

In the workplace most acts of leadership occur through our conversations.

At best our conversations can be works of art. We convey our world through language and the melodic score that underpins our language. A speech moves us not only by the cogency of its argument but by its very rhythm and use of rhetoric.

If we cannot express ourselves accurately (e.g. words don’t come to us easily, and our vocal rhythmic patterns are inappropriate or wanting) we restrict ourselves to a world of repressed or restricted thought and feeling. This can lead to daily thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, disappointment and self-consciousness as we seek to engage with others and present our true self to the world.

In the best conversations our imaginations can soar to new heights, our emotions ignite, and our visions take on form and clarity. When we speak, we participate in the complex dynamic of meaning making – a subtle interplay of sound, image, rhythm and understanding.

Like a skilled musician, conversational artists appreciate that the art of conversation is not only about the ‘notes’ (words) but the spaces (silence) between them. As renown Voice Coach Cicely Berry points out the conversational artist can “...draw the listener in and energize the audience with language...”.

She points out that this is not "...by making the language sound beautiful”. We do not want the listener simply to be in awe of our fabulous sounding voice; we want him/her to be touched by its veracity – its essence. The conversational artist can, as President John Fitzgerald Kennedy described when speaking of Sir Winston Churchill, "...take the English language and send it into battle."

As leaders we are engaged in a battle - the battle of winning hearts and minds. Without the ability to engage, convince and inspire others, it is difficult for any leader to enlist suffiecient support to achieve their vision. Harriet Ruben reminds us that the music of the message "...is half the meaning." As leaders we need to be more aware of this.

Our leadership conversations matter. They more than matter. They can change what happens. Conversational magic works ‘in the moment’ between people when we have at our disposal a vocal instrument able to use tone, rhythm and a melodic score capable of expressing our depth of insight, understanding and expanse of vision. The alchemy of leadership occurs when the leader's voice reveals itself as true, beyond artiface, in sync, appropriate, melodic and compelling.

As we use more and more ‘techno communication’ we can forget the power of the word – spoken. It is the spoken word that can mobilise the heart strings as well as make a pressing case in terms of logic.

Do you have a question for Veronica and Charles? Email it to veronica@theatreofleadership.com