Leadership Conversation Or Leadership Telling?

Recently on the Leadership Platform Show on CliffCentral.com we had a leadership conversation with Advocate Leslie Sedibe, CEO of Proudly SA. He is a passionate student of leadership and has been for many years. We enjoyed the conversation with him and another student of leadership, Carla da Silva, manager for Air Mauritius Africa and Latin America.

Amongst several key issues we unpacked we feel that two principles are of significant interest to all students of leadership. These are:

  1. The spiritual foundation of good leadership
  2. The value of leadership conversation as a method of developing leaders around you, rather than the old style of telling them what great leadership entails.

The spiritual foundation of good leadership

The participants in the discussion, including the contribution by telephone of international thought leader Bruce van Horn from the East Coast of the United States, agreed that love was the most valuable attribute of good leadership. The direction that this rigorous conversation took almost surprised some of us. Leslie Sedibe concurred and indicated that he was profoundly impressed with the LLJ model proposed by the famous leadership writer, Ken Blanchard. LLJ stands for ‘Lead Like Jesus’. The more we study the kind of leadership that moves barriers to full potential in today’s world, the more we realise that great leadership is profoundly spiritual in essence.

Leadership conversations as a leadership style:

The old ‘telling’ leadership style

In the distant past it was quite fashionable for leaders to adopt a telling style of leadership. The idea was that once you were appointed to some kind of management or supervisory function, you were obligated to have all the answers and to tell others what to do. This approach was also adopted when it came to leadership development – tell students or direct reports what it takes for them to be great leaders. It is generally accepted in modern times though that a telling style of leading and developing leaders can often severely restrict one’s ability to lead and develop others successfully.

As indicated by our regular panel member on the show, Alan Hosking, modern life demands a higher level of emotional intelligence from leaders than in the past.

We realize that a leader may often have to assume a telling style when enforcing crucial values and when discipline and firm action are required. Imagine for example a situation where bullets are flying around and the leader does not exert some kind of dominance of telling. We are certainly not advocating that a leader does not need strong character and a clear moral vision.

Value of conversational style

Our recent experiences on the weekly Cliffcentral leadership master class reinforce the universal principle that a conversational approach to discussing important principles of leadership leads to a far better grasp of these principles than a lecturing style alone. The invited guests are all top leaders in their own right and their contributions in a conversational and interactive mode are invaluable. The principle we are discussing in this article is that a conversational approach to leadership development is often far more effective simply because it tends to stimulate behavioural change in participants far more than being told what to think and do.

Talking with top leaders

As we listen to proven leaders that have learnt through successes and failures, like Adv. Leslie Sedibe, some of us may initially disagree. Our experience is that while we interact through rigorous conversation we tend to rub off on each other and develop mutual respect and even agreement on principles that we may not have appreciated a few minutes before. As one of the hosts of the show, I have yet to experience disappointment in the edifying nature of the conversations that we have.

We can all talk leadership

Not all of us have the privilege of discussing key issues and leadership principles with top leaders, as we do. However, listening to the show and then holding leadership conversations amongst colleagues is probably an option that most of us can exercise. We should not underestimate the value of talking through leadership principles and issues with our associates and reports. The chances of deeper buy-in and commitment to principles are far greater with interactive discussion than just telling people how to be great leaders.

Our First Profession

Good leadership is the ability to move attitudes and situations in a positive direction. It is the best part of all of us and is in reality our First Profession. All of us have leadership ability and the more we discuss this in a positive climate the more we raise our own leadership instincts to the conscious level.

Using the free master class Leadership Platform podcasts as a basis for leadership discussion is turning out to be a viable option for thousands all over the country and internationally as well.

Resistances to the conversational leadership development mode

  • Time restraints

We are all so busy that we simply miss out on taking time out to talk matters through. One of the negative spinoffs of our ‘too busy’ program is that we try to jump the process that empowers people around us to embrace principles and desires. Our experience is that proper conversations always lead to a growth in our relationships with our guests as well as growth in our understanding of leadership principles. Holding such conversations inside your business with your staff will strengthen your relationship with them and increase their/your understanding of leadership.

  • Wariness of being vulnerable

It takes courage to be vulnerable. Some of us may avoid honest conversations with colleagues and reports because we do not want to be humiliated or even emotionally offended. We can understand such wariness, but strongly encourage all of us to have the courage to share and invite participation of those around us. You may be pleasantly surprised by the response of others!




Louis has been fanatically endeavoring to uncover universal leadership principles and models for longer than most of us have been alive. He is an author, leadership expert, father, grandfather, and the Co-Founder of Leadership Platform.

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022
Email: info@leadershipplatform.com

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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