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

Journal of Organizational Change Management Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 7-23, 2012

27 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2012

See all articles by Joseph A. Raelin

Joseph A. Raelin

Northeastern University - D’Amore-McKim School of Business

Date Written: February 13, 2012


Purpose – To make the case, firstly, that democratic leadership, referred to as “leaderful practice,” should be the fundamental form of leadership that characterizes participatory organizational change. 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, secondly, 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 OD 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.

Keywords: Organizational change, Leaderful practice, Democratic leadership, Dialogue, Deliberation, Change agent, Leadership

JEL Classification: D73, M12, M14, M51, M53, M54

Suggested Citation

Raelin, Joseph A., Dialogue and Deliberation as Expressions of Democratic Leadership in Participatory Organizational Change (February 13, 2012). Journal of Organizational Change Management Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 7-23, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2004504

Joseph A. Raelin (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - D’Amore-McKim School of Business ( email )

360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.damore-mckim.northeastern.edu/faculty/r/raelin-joseph

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