Host Leadership as a practical framework for dialogic leaders

Chris Corrigan, one of my long-time friends and inspirations, has just started blogging again. This is good news – his ideas and views from the western shores of Canada about hosting, facilitating, conversing and including are always worth catching.

Today’s blog is a list of 10 interesting things from his ‘parking lot’ – the place where he stores ideas and material pending making use of it. My eye was caught by a short video of Patricia Shaw on the characteristics of a good leader from a dialogic perspective. It’s only six minutes long and well worth a watch.

Patricia Shaw

I have summarised her characteristics, which are well-observed and very concisely delivered. She says leaders could do more of these:

  1. Think about convening conversations that might not happen otherwise. Opening spaces for reflective inquiry.
  2. Taking action visibly. Taking up a voice, speaking out, creating ripples where you don’t quite know the consequences.
  3. Leaders shift the conversational life of the organisation. Having the courage and skill to invite and sustain free-flowing conversation which is not simply following a highly structured agenda.
  4. Invent and improvise shifts in the configuration of speaking with each other – all together, in small groups, listening carefully. Work with conversation as an art.
  5. Encourage talk linking large-scale abstract concepts to the small-scale realities of everyday life.  Many leaders are excellent at giving accounts of the former and are unable to translate these to the latter.
  6. Know how to balance and move between written documentation with oral communication. The former leads to a narrowing and reduction of the richness of the latter.
  7. Leaders can be very good at explanation and yet very poor at description. They are too eager to move towards simple cause-and-effect linkages, where a descriptive-reflective capacity to inquire into the way circumstances happen and change.  
  8. Being able to evoke and notice ‘vivid moments of experience’, moments of common reference which have meaning for people in their everyday activity.
  9. Pay less attention to generating yet another action plan and more attention on what is opening up in front of us in terms of small steps.

Each of these nine micro-practices can be seen to be part of a host leadership stance, particularly when combined with the detail and descriptive work of Solutions Focus. My eye was particularly drawn to:

  • Using convening power – even when you don’t have formal authority to do so.
  • Work in different ways with language and conversation – all together, in small groups, individually and so on, using the Four Positions of a host leader.
  • Bringing people together to join forces to exchange, converse and emerge new ideas (rather than have a constraining agenda), in the same way that a good party is not scripted but flows this way and that.
  • Taking small steps (as in the User’s Guide To The Future framework) as a way of positively exploring and learning, rather than as part of a huge action plan.

Now take a look at Patricia’s video below. Enjoy!

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