n Conflict Trends - Leadership and dialogue

Volume 2007, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


Harry Truman said, "A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don't want to do, and like it." It is obvious from this comment that a leader can influence the actions of people, either positively or negatively. History has borne witness to how trite this conclusion is. Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela used this leadership ability positively, through dialogue, and Adolf Hitler and Slobadan Milosevic used the same ability negatively, through violence. The mantle of leadership therefore places a huge responsibility on the shoulders of those to whom leadership is entrusted.

In the 21st century, leadership and dialogue need to be inextricably linked. every leader should possess dialogue skills. Dialogue is an art form: it is more than talking and more than discussion. It is often confused with diplomatic negotiations where compromise is sought to 'cut a deal'; where parties use diplomatic negotiations to promote their own political and economic interests. Dialogue involves a deeper set of skills. It involves listening, empathy, open-mindedness, understanding and cooperation. To cooperate, one has to understand; to understand, one has to be open-minded; to be open-minded, one has to empathise; and to empathise, one has to listen. In dialogue, one is not seeking merely to 'cut a deal', but trying to build cooperation or cooperative relationships, and arriving at a confluence of ideas and expectations.

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