Dialogical Leadership | Dialogical Culture
Companies and organizations are more and more experiencing the fact that the usual styles of leadership are barely effective any longer. And that is not a matter of revising details. What was previously the responsibility of the administration is now becoming a challenge of the employees: to develop "an entrepreneurial apprenticeship". Not only will that revolutionize the contribution of the individual in the working environment, but the whole structure of cooperation will also be organized under new criteria. "Dialogical Leadership" is a leadership concept that poses this challenge. Since the mid nineties the Friedrich von Hardenberg Institut for Cultural Sciences in Heidelberg has been developing this concept that is currently being practiced in business enterprises and cultural organizations.
The individual employee will be taken seriously as an autonomous personality, and will be supported independently of his role or position in the company. This requires above all the possibility to structure one's own work with an eye on the whole, rather than discovering a "position" defined in advance that needs to be filled. Originality and creativity of the individual are valued and not merely expertise and social competence. The actions of the contributors take place through individual initiative and by taking personal responsibility and are not fed by adapting to predefined measures.
Is it possible to develop a working collaboration that allows for the independence of the individual? How can independence emerge in the sense of the whole? It is this challenge that dialogical culture wants to respond to and provide an environment, where the employees act through their own insights and take responsibility for their actions. This type of leadership and culture must be elaborated for every single company and in every concrete working context. Thus it stays practically relevant and viable. Dialogical leadership resp. dialogical culture abstains from any form of human conditioning. They are not a panacea in the sense of conventional management concepts, not a simple method but an attempt, to find possibilities in every concrete situation toward a practice of mutual respect and efficient collective action.
The dialogue presents itself as a way of getting along with one another, and as a form of communication, within which the participants help one another to develop their own insights and initiatives. The term "dialogue" does not only refer to a conversation. The "dialogical element" is more comprehensive. The expression "dialogue" denotes, literally, a process whereby the logos "passes through" (dia=through). Heraclitus from Ephesus (5th Century BC) first employed the term "logos". The logos according to Heraclitus denoted the everlasting efficacy of the world, that navigates all things and whose "works" are the natural beings. At the same time, according to Heraclitus, the Logos also lives in the soul of mankind. In contrast to nature, the impact on a man's soul is not yet completed. The logos is still at work. Socrates (399 BC) used the term "dialogue" to describe a specific way we talk to each other. But that is a special case. At the same time it was also a concern of Socrates to apply the logos to all human relations. Characteristic in the Socratic dialogue is that each individual partner in the dialogue takes responsibility for his own thoughts, that he retains a distance to himself (irony) and forms a conceptualization that is committed to reality. It is in this sense that "dialogical" is meant, not in some indeterminate expression, referring to the various ways we engage in conversation.
When keeping this goal in mind, how can leadership and collaboration be developed? Dialogical leadership is part of a corporate culture that incorporates, and at the same time, promotes the autonomy of the individual. This facilitates intellectual productivity and encourages the participants to engage in self-leadership. Four dialogical processes explain in detail how this can be done. These processes are based on individual efforts to practice attentiveness and creativity. They are not structural standards or procedural models that can be defined in advance and then "implemented". In fact, the dialogical processes require active comprehension and the will of the participants at the outset.
We are living in a time of individualization. Never before and never to such an extent has the individual had to take that much responsibility for his actions. It becomes less and less possible for him to depend upon sound traditions and he has no recourse but to structure his own life. That requires having the will and abilities to attain self-leadership and to pose new challenges when collaborating with this type of "individualized" person. Dialogical culture is devoted to both sides of the problem. It's core questions are:
Humankind | How can the dignity of the (single) person be kept at a high level?
How can the others foster the development of the individual?
The Given Situation | How can each individual obtain a view of the whole?
How does the common whole emerge out of the independence of the individual?
The Future | How can the creativity of as many employees as possible be stimulated?
How can the individual's originality be integrated into the future of collaboration?
The Action | How can as many employees as possible become proactive?
How can joint action be achieved by individual accountability?
In view of these core questions particular challenges for leadership and self-leadership emerge:
- To enable the individual to develop throughout the whole process
- To measure up to the given circumstances in all their complexity
- To stimulate and perform productive capabilities
- To combine the independent task of the individual into a whole
Therefore, it is essential in a Dialogical Culture to stimulate and shape the corresponding processes in the individual as well as in the social context.
INDIVIDUAL ENCOUNTERS in regard to relations between people.
Taking an interest in an individual as opposed to practicing role behavior or exploitation of others.
TRANSPARENCYin regard to the given situation.
Independent power of judgment of the individual instead of power bestowing knowledge or dictatorship of opinion.
CONSULTING and idea development in regard to the future.
Creativity instead of tradition and structural standards.
DECISIVENESS in regard to actual actions.
Acting on one‘s own initiative instead of out of acting for the sake of self-realization or on behalf of another person.
Numerous publications have been published by the originators and have been translated into different languages:
Karl-Martin Dietz, Acting Independently for the Good of the Whole. From Dialogical Leadership to a Dialogical Corporate Culture, Heidelberg: MENON 2013
Karl-Martin Dietz, Agir en toute autonomie pour le bien de la communauté. Intention et réalisation d’une Culture d’entreprise dialogique, Heidelberg: MENON 2015
Karl-Martin Dietz, Initiativa individuale e impresa. Per una cultura dialogica, Milano: Editrice Novalis 2013
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