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The Gentlemanliness of Russ Volckmann, Dialogical Leadership and My First Published Work

June 27, 2010

Russ Volckmann is one of the smartest AND kindest people I’ve ever known. He embodies the term “gentlemanly” in a way we rarely get to see these days. If it were not for his gentle and gracious demeanor, the breadth and vibrancy of his intellect would be simply intimidating; yet he has an unquenchable thirst for a broad range of topics which, in turn, he applies in service to those around him.

As part of my studies at Union Institute and University I recently completed his course entitled Integral Leadership. The class was tour-de-force and it took my awareness of matters integral to new heights. At Russ’s prompting, I started reading Swedish linguist Per Linell’s latest Rethinking Language, Mind and World Dialogically. It was a game changer.

The premise–that thought and language, typically conceived as part of vast network of hierarchical structures, needs to be reconceived in forms that privilege mutuality–was simple enough; yet the implications are profound indeed. Especially when aligned with the notions like the emergence of a networked society and growing influence of Integral Theory and  2nd-tiered consciousness.

Now I’m something of a theory/paradigm geek so the potential for a dialogical approach to consciousness left me just giddy. But I had a hunch that something central had yet to be established: leadership. I saw two key dimensions here–one was the emerging role of an authentically dialogical approach to leadership; the second was the cohering–yet unexamined–influence dialogical thought has always played in the leadership process.

Because I tend to ruminate on this kind of stuff until some kind of coherent thinking unfolds–(and I have no idea how my wife deals with this)–I finally started to think that this notion of dialogicality could be a sort of unifying thread; one that could pull the domains of leadership, evolving post-conventional consciousness, and the emerging networked social/media structures together toward a meaningful whole. So I started writing.

(You know, I’m such a liar. I’m making this sound all inspired and Mozart-y; while all that other stuff is true, it’s even more true that I had a mid-term paper for Russ’s class that was hanging over my head like the trusty Sword of Damocles! One way or another, words needed to become quickly acquainted with some paper!)

So the paper was called The Dialogical Journey Towards a Post-Conventional Resolution of Leadership Praxis and Russ really liked it. He liked it so much in fact that he asked my permission to publish it as a student paper in this month’s Integral Leadership Review. It’s my first published piece and it feels really cool to have something I wrote published in a journal I used to ready even before I knew Russ–or Union Institute for that matter.

And while I think there are some good things in it, the paper is far from where I want it to be. In large measure, that’s because it’s just the first installment of what is actually a much larger work in progress. I just finished the 2nd part entitled Dark Night of the Leader: A Preliminary Framework  for  the Essential and Constructive Function of Transformative Crisis in Leadership Development. Kind reader, if you’ve made it this far I’ll do you the service of not going into what that’s all about; nor will I attempt to explain its connection to dialogical leadership.  (Though I’m sure I’ll post those thoughts and the paper soon…)

Until that time I’ll leave you with the link to the paper in this month’s ILR (there are also 2 really cool interviews interview –one with Ken Wilber and another with William Torbert, plus a great review of Jeremy Rifkin’s game changing ‘The Empathic Civilization). (That’s the second time I’ve used “game changing” isn’t it…?)

So Ok, go check out the ILR issue and I’ll just sit here like a giddy school girl awaiting your feedback and comments.

Ciao amigos!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2010 9:51 am

    What an interesting post, David! I have been using the term “dialogical leadership” for a very long time. Yet I do not know many authors who do so. In Germany, there is a an approach that explicitely works with this term having an anthroposophical background. I myself have a background in dialogical rhetoric and use this as a basis for leadership communication. I am excited about having met you on twitter and even more so about your blog. Keep on writing, I am sure we will share more.

    • June 29, 2010 12:29 am

      Hello Semira and thanks for your kind, encouraging words. While I have studied leadership broadly for a number of years, it’s been less than 2 that I have been learning about it through a developmental lens–and far less than that that I have exploring dialogical thought. Even more recently have I undertaken any effort to present my writing for public consumption. In other words, this is all very new! The ideas are literally coalescing for the first time as I type them. On the one hand, that gives the work an immediacy; on the other some of the thinking is not as coherent as it could be. Case in point: I’m now re-reading the ILR article for an upcoming conference presentation and I see the thing is a scrambled mess! Anyway, that’s part of the process I guess.

      The connection to Steiner you mention is very interesting. I’d like to learn more about that . I’ll be study a bit of political philosophy this term, so I’m very interested how ideas such as dialogical thought will apply in a collective context. Perhaps other disciplines–such as anthroposophy–will help illuminate that further.

      Thanks again for your comments.

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