Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thought Leadership vs. Dialogue Leadership

I originally wrote this entry on September 11, 2004, and published it on

We often hear of "thought leadership" or "moral leadership" but we rarely hear of "dialogue leadership." Why?

"Thought leadership" is about leading through a mostly solitary activity that has been had. We have had some thoughts, at best involving a small clique of people, and then we go out and try to "lead" with those thoughts.

"Dialogue leadership" is about creating opportunities to think together creatively and to learn from each other.

If you want to learn more about the distinction between thought leadership and dialogue leadership, I highly recommend William Isaacs' Dialogue (and the art of thinking together).

Unfortunately, theories of interaction that emphasize asocial conflict have dominance in many peoples' thinking. See, for example, these two highly-recommended books that do a very good job of summarizing these theories: Thomas Schelling's Strategies of Conflict and Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff'sThinking Strategically. These books are often used to teach business strategy, economics and social interaction.

Theories of interaction that search for a more social approach to fostering exchange have been sidelined. See, for example the distinguished economist Oliver Williamson's The Mechanisms of Governance. (I have to admit that I've seen references to Williamson's work in corporate strategy chapters of some strategy books such as Robert Grant's Contemporary Strategy Analysis.)

No comments: