Three Types of Conversations that Develop Better Leaders

AdVance Leadership » Three Types of Conversations that Develop Better Leaders

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #050. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll learn three types of conversations that help leaders become more productive and effective.

1 Insight

By enabling leadership conversations, you can help your company’s leaders feel more productive and  connected to each other.

You’ve heard the adage about leadership: it’s lonely at the top. In our years of working with leaders, we’ve seen that it’s not only the top leaders who experience loneliness. Leaders at all levels endure feelings of isolation.

While research about loneliness in leadership is scarce, there are a couple studies that reveal how prolific feelings of isolation are.

  • Harvard Business Review’s 2012 study found that half of CEOs report feeling lonely, with 61% of those leaders believing that their loneliness hindered their performance.
  • The Center for Creative Leadership found in 2018 that 76% of executives experienced feelings of loneliness. Of those surveyed, 58% believed that it negatively affected their decision-making abilities.

Despite the abundance of loneliness in leadership, leaders rarely discuss this condition. Many leaders wonder if they will appear weak if they express these feelings. They wonder if people will lose respect for them.

So, they remain quiet, all the while allowing those feelings to damage their leadership. Here are a few ways that loneliness can hurt your leadership effectiveness:

  • Increased stress
  • Stifled creativity
  • Higher risk of burnout
  • Less influence of others
  • Limited perspective for decision-making
  • Diminished trust for others and from others

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

We believe that leadership is lonely only when we expect and accept it as lonely. At AdVance Leadership, whenever we’re conducting Leadership Development trainings, we focus on helping leaders develop solid relationships with each other. Enabling leadership conversations is one of the four building blocks to creating a leadership development culture at your company.

In the same way, you, as a leader, can create opportunities for your company’s leaders to connect with each other. We’d like to share with you three types of conversations we’ve utilized with our clients to help their leaders feel less lonely.

1.     Progress and Challenge Updates

One of our clients brings multiple groups of 10 leaders together each month. These leaders are part of a year-long leadership development program we direct. At the beginning of each quarter, each participant identifies his biggest business priorities and how he needs to grow as a leader to accomplish those priorities.

Each month when they meet, participants share progress that they’ve made on the priorities. They also share challenges that they’re currently experiencing. Using the GROW model, the group collectively coaches each other. Some members share insights on how they solved similar challenges.

Benefits of This Type of Conversation:

  • It reduces the feelings of loneliness in leaders.
  • Each participant can share their individual priorities.
  • It’s part of an ongoing leadership development program.
  • Participants coach each other.

2.     Case Study Processing

We work with another company that invites all its current and emerging leaders to a luncheon. During the meal, a seasoned leader spends 15 minutes sharing a challenging experience that she went through. She describes the circumstances and factors that made the challenge especially difficult. She will not share how she handled the situation.

Instead, all the participants individually think through how they would handle the situation. Then, the participants break up into groups of four people. These groups are comprised of people at varying levels in the company. An executive will be in the same group with a front-line manager and middle managers. Each member of the group discusses how they would handle the situation. This discussion helps to challenge and refine the ideas of the others.

Finally, the seasoned leader stands up and explains how she handled the situation and what ultimately transpired. She shares the good, bad, and ugly of the situation. Finally, she tells how she would handle the situation differently if she went through it again.

Benefits of This Type of Conversation:

  • It reduces the feelings of loneliness in leaders.
  • Leaders at different levels get to know each other.
  • Experienced leaders teach each other using real-life examples.
  • Participants actively think about how they would handle difficult situations.

3.     Sharing a Common Goal

Another one of our clients has a distributed workforce with managers spread throughout multiple states. These leaders are all working on the same goals, but they have different responsibilities in achieving  those goals.

Leaders come together virtually to discuss their progress. The leaders utilize breakout rooms to break into groups of four. They receive a set of discussion questions designed to get the leaders talking about the goals: progress they’re making, obstacles they’ve encountered, and mistakes they’ve made.

Most importantly, though, these groups don’t focus on the tactical work. Rather, leaders concentrate on how they need to grow in order to accomplish the goals.

At the end of the time, our client brings all the leaders back together in the same virtual room. Everyone has the opportunity to discuss their challenges and ask for help.

Benefits of This Type of Conversation:

  • It reduces the feelings of loneliness in leaders.
  • It keeps everyone focused on a common goal.
  • It concentrates on how individual leaders need to grow in order to accomplish the goal.

Leadership doesn’t have to be lonely. It’s only lonely if you expect and accept that it is. Enabling conversations can cause participants to not only feel less lonely but also become better leaders.

1 Action

Pick one of these types of conversations and start having leadership discussions in your organization.


Want to help your company unleash its leaders?

  1. Get your team to subscribe to the Friday411 newsletter.
  2. Get your copy of Gettin' (un)Busy, named by Forbes as “one of the books everyone on your team should read.”
  3. Email Garland to train your company’s leaders. We will equip them with 7 traits that solve 95% of their leadership challenges.
Skip to content