Shared Leadership and Superior Dialogue Levels: How to Better Mobilize as a Team

The type of dialogue used in groups, organizations and in everyday situations is one of the most important ways that one can mobilize, motivate, give confidence and encourage innovation amongst workers. The quality of the dialogue can influence whether members of a group will trust and try to understand each other, discuss their ideas and perspectives and find alternative solutions to manipulate the future.


Here is a model of five hierarchical levels of dialogue that can take place in the work environment and that can be used in everyday situations to persuade, to influence, to charm others or to achieve different goals. But first of all:


What is a dialogue and what are its uses?

The term “dialogue” is defined as a deliberate effort to establish and maintain a common link (Morkova, 1995). The dialogue’s quality and impact on others varies according to its content, the type of dialogue used and the individuals interacting within it. According to Scharmer, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the degree of maturity of the dialogue between speakers has the potential to lead to innovation and different levels of dialogue can encourage different leadership styles. Good leaders know exactly when and how to use these levels to achieve specific objectives.


Understanding these five dialogues can lead to an increased awareness of when they can and are being put to use. One can learn to develop the skills related to each level and know which dialogue to choose in order to achieve a specific objective.


The conformist dialogue manifests itself when two or more workers within an organization discuss and exchange ideas with a conformist attitude. This can mean that each speaker conforms to the expectations of their authority level (i.e. two bosses from different hierarchical levels), that they conform to what better represents their position within the organization, or that they conform to what can and cannot be said within the given context.


This can happen when a worker is given an order by another worker and accepts to execute it, when an individual expresses an idea or perspective that remains within the confines of their role or area of expertise or when members of a group adapt their behaviors and opinions, either consciously or not, to conform to the group’s code of conduct.


In such situations, the dialogur is determined and limited by the individual or group’s belief of what is allowed and not allowed to be discussed within the work environment. The type of leadership at the conformist level involves adhering to the ideas and opinions of others and consists mostly of executing orders.


Confidence, the belief in one’s own potential and possibilities, and assertion, the ability to reinforce and include one’s values in any situation, are the two qualities required to practice a superior dialogue level.


The competitive dialogue is characterized by relationships of competition between speakers. It can be used productively in situations that require influencing to convince another individual in adopting an opinion or perspective. However, the competitive dialogue loses its benefits when it is used to blame, to accuse, or when one or all speakers use it to subdue another individual, to impose one’s superiority or to gain something at the expense of another individual. Marked by vertical relationships of power, the competitive dialogue is conducted according to the idea that one individual wins and another loses.


The skill of compassion: making the effort of truly listening and understanding the viewpoints and ideas of others is the ability required to move to the third dialogue level.


Charm and charisma in discussions characterize the charismatic dialogue. Speakers using this type of dialogue attempt to satisfy and charm others in a search for acceptance or to be appreciated by another individual or by members of a group. Understanding others and the abilities to manifest sympathy and compassion are the required skills to achieve the related to the third dialogue level.


Unlike the past three levels which were based on relationships with others, the fourth dialogue level focuses on the common objective or the problem or challenge to be solved. The pooling of efforts and perspectives and cooperation amongst individuals to achieve the common goal rather than to execute orders or to subjugate or charm others, are the main characteristics of the fourth level. According to shared principles and values, the dialogue leader becomes the motivator for the achievement of common goal.


The abilities related to the previous dialogue levels (the ability to clearly communicate, to assert oneself and to express compassion) as well as the abilities to solve a problem by identifying its causes and impacts and to remain focused on the objective are the skills required to master the dialogue at the fourth level. The possible results include an increased potential to create and to innovate within the group or organization.


The fifth dialogue level is the most difficult to achieve because it requires the integration of the perspectives of every member of the group, whether present or not during discussions and briefings. The empathy manifested by each member prevails over the information available to the speaker so that more perspectives are included in discussions and decisions. These consist of present and future perspectives as well as those of competitors and of associates.


A unique opinion or a prevailing theory has very little potential of being expressed at this level. The communications are fluid, the thinking is systemic and information and knowledge is shared within the group. All members of the group form an entity searching for better solutions. Leadership is not one individual’s role; rather it is the entire group’s responsibility to work together towards the achievement of the common objective.


The ability to combine perspectives and information into one final product and the capacity to exclude oneself are the skills to develop for those wishing to apply the integrating dialog to mobilize others successfully towards the achievement of a common goal.



The first three dialogue levels are based on relationships with others, which can help achieve specific goals and find solutions on an individual level or to achieve a personal objective. The ability to travel from one level to another to achieve specific objectives is a required skill to attain the final two dialogue levels.


The speakers of the cooperative and integrative levels of dialogue have the skills to forget their needs to focus on common challenges, problems and goals (Schramer). They have also developed the skills of travelling from one dialogue level to the next and of understanding and integrating other perspectives in the search for solutions. These speakers use their diverse and fluid communication skills to create an environment where individuals within and outside the same systems can interact and work together.


Edith Luc


© 2011. Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

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