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Dialogue and Deliberation as Expressions of Democratic Leadership in Participatory Organizational Change

This resource was submitted via the Add-A-Resource form by NCDD member Joe Raelin, author of the article and Knowles Chair of Practice-Oriented Education professor at Northeastern University’s Center for Work and Learning.  His work can also be found at www.leaderful.org.

The purpose of this article is to make the case that democratic leadership, referred to as “leaderful” practice, should be the fundamental form of leadership that characterizes participatory organizational change. The article appeared in the Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol 25, No. 1, 2012. From the author…

I wrote the article for the D&D community to try to clear up a few inconsistencies that I occasionally see in our work. First, although many adherents work in the public arena, at times there is a focus on organizational change. But the connection between org change and dialogue, the latter as a primary means of communication when sustaining movements that call for participatory action, is sometimes lost. We often forget how tenuous the line is when we solicit others’ involvement, so in this article, I cite some potential conditions for emancipatory discourse. Lastly, we also at times talk about collaborative dialogue but then refer to the leadership that may mobilize it in its conventional form as an individual, even heroic, trait rather than as a relational collaborative practice in its own right. Now that people are becoming more aware of the concept of “leaderful” practice, I outline its intersubjective properties based on a democratic ideology calling for the co-creation of a community by involved parties throughout their own exploratory, creative, and communal discourses.

Article abstract and additional links are found after the break.

Resource Link:   www.emeraldinsight.com/fwd.htm?id=aob&ini=aob&doi=10.1108/09534811211199574


Purpose – The parties affected by change are those engaged who seek to reflect upon their own tacit collective practices. Their mode of communication is a dialogue or deliberation that involves the responsible parties to decision making without privileging particular stakeholders because of their status or authority. Thus, it is purported that the three practice elements of democratic leadership, dialogue, and deliberation should be included among the bedrock principles of participatory organizational change.

Design/methodology/approach – A critical conceptual examination is undertaken of the contribution of three alternative literature streams – leaderful practice, dialogue, deliberation – to participatory organizational change.

Findings – Dialogue, an authentic exchange between people, and its decision-making cousin, deliberation, can become the communication modes associated with participatory organizational change. They are each characterized by equality of participation; thus they are inherently democratic processes that should substitute for top-down or monologic discourses, which are inimical to participatory practice.

Practical implications – If organization development and comparable participatory change processes claim at their core to be democratic processes, their exponents would endorse a leadership and communication that would preferably match their value system. There would be a shared communication by all those who are involved in the change activity, wherever they may sit within the organizational bureaucracy. The communication would become a multiple-party reflective conversation that is captured in the mode called dialogue.

Originality/value – By focusing on critical reflection, the dialogic perspective with its emancipatory interest challenges common sense assumptions that are likely to be historical and cultural as psychological. Ultimately, dialogue supports democratic leadership at a core interpersonal level in which participants learn to engage through a reflective practice that allows them to observe and experiment with their own collective tacit processes in action.

The article is available for $25 and can be downloaded directly from the Journal of Organizational Change Management.  It can also be downloaded in its pre-pub form from the SSRN site of the author.

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