Conversational Leadership

Amy Lenzo Posted by Amy Lenzo, Director of Communications, World Cafe Community Foundation.

Director of Communications at the World Cafe Community Foundation.
Director, Clear Light Communications

What is conversational leadership? In the article by Juanita Brown and Thomas J Hurley (soon to appear as a BK Fast Fundamentals WhitePaper!), they outline the following "P....

What is conversational leadership?

In the article by Juanita Brown and Thomas J Hurley (soon to appear as a BK Fast Fundamentals WhitePaper!), they outline the following "Personal Capacities of a Conversational Leader":

  • Creates a climate for discover and emergence
  • Evokes and honors diverse perspectives
  • Asks powerful questions
  • Suspends premature judgment
  • Explores assumptions and beliefs
  • Embraces ambiguity and not-knowing
  • Listens for connections between ideas
  • Captures key insights and articulates shared understanding

Are these traits ones that you have or aspire to? Do you consider yourself a conversational leader?


David Marshall
David Marshall

I am excited about BK offering this World Cafe article as a whitepaper. It will be the first (but certainly not the last) time that we publish an article-length whitepaper that was not derived from an existing chapter in one of our books. We already have a World Cafe whitepaper, which is a chapter from  The Change Handbook , a change management classic. The existing World Cafe whitepaper, one of our bestsellers, gives an overview of the World Cafe concepts, while this one explores what makes a good conversational leader. This second whitepaper should be a great complement to the first one.

Looking at the personal capacities list above, I think I am pretty good ad asking powerful questions. I like to wait until the conversation has progressed and then ask something that takes the group to the next level. The excellent point on "listens for connections between ides" reminded me of my business school training. We learned the case study method at Harvard, whereby each new comment had to relate to the comment before it, so each student had to learn how to thread the ideas to unify the full 90-minute conversation. If you ignored what the person was saying before you with your hand high in the air, and then launched in with your own point that was unrelated to the what the person beforehand was saying, then the instructor would shake her head and move on to the next raised hand.

October 29, 2014

Amy Lenzo
Amy Lenzo

I'm wondering what you all think about conversational leadership in the world today... what does conversational leadership look like?

I see that conversational leadership is sorely needed, particularly in the political arena. There is conversational leadership here at home in the initiatives that the Obamas are leading to invite the ideas and voice of Americans and others all over the world into a conversation about the future of the country. And there are so may others, like the online World Cafe I co-hosted with Coffee Party member Ben Roberts, who is enthusiastically hosting regular World Cafe conversations online about the party's ideas of political inclusion and expanding the current agenda.

But what about in other spheres - in business, community, institutions? Where do you see conversation leaders or conversational leadership at work? Where do you see that we need it?

October 29, 2014

Barbara Chan
Barbara Chan

Powerful questions followed by deep, non-judgmental, compassionate listening

October 29, 2014