Leadership Conversations by Alan Berson and Richard Stieglitz is the ultimate guide to thriving as a high-potential manager and climbing the ladder to become a top organizational leader. Rather than engaging in an ongoing race to be heard and/or produce results, leaders of any level must learn how to ask great questions and listen to the answers, create a culture that places more value on learning than on what people already know, and actually drive innovation and focus on the big picture, versus just getting things done.
At the heart of Leadership Conversations is a tactical, practical guide to achieving this, setting out the four types of conversation every leader must master to achieve just that:
• Conversations to Build Relationships: how to master the emotional intelligence required to be an effective leader, embrace differences in order to engage followers and align them with the organization’s goals, and foster genuine transparency and honesty to gain trust and respect.
• Conversations to Make Decisions: how to integrate facts with people and ask great questions that maximize potential. Key tips are provided on developing good judgment, empowering choice, the importance of being curious, and learning what you don’t know (but need to) in order to make good decisions.
• Conversations to Take Action: how to develop vision, allocate resources, and measure performance. How to avoid assumptions and generally draw followers into action in concert with the leader, rather than direct people to perform. Finally, based on the idea of military “after-action,” how to discuss and learn from failures and successes.
• Conversations to Develop Others: How to drive long term growth and provide the foundation and fuel for future success; how to mentor and recognize people, lead high-potential managers, and ultimately celebrate their success.
We recently had a chance to hear Mr. Berson speak in NYC. The philosophy of the book moves beyond conversational skills into psychology and ontology. In an hour session we covered many of the basic tennets of what makes up leadership conversations. The book is full of valuable distinctions mostly between management and leadership.