Date of Award

Spring 3-27-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Keith Larcik

Second Advisor

Cindy Petersen

Third Advisor

Julie Hadden


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological research study was to identify and describe the behaviors that exemplary city managers practice to lead their organizations through conversation using Groysberg and Slind’s (2012b) 4 elements of conversation leadership (intimacy, interactivity, inclusion, and intentionality).

Methodology: This qualitative research study was used to describe the behaviors of exemplary Southern California city managers. The counties included in the study were San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino. The researcher selected 10 exemplary city managers that met 4 of the 6 criterion identified as exemplary. The phenomenological research design was selected to explain how these city managers lead through conversation. Data collection included semistructured interviews, observation, and collection of pertinent artifacts. The researcher used the NVivo software to provide analysis of the data and show the emerging themes. The themes were then examined to identify behaviors that the exemplary city managers practice to lead through conversation.

Findings: Examination of qualitative data from the 10 city managers, collected through in-depth interviews, observational data, and review of artifacts produced 20 themes and 299 frequencies within the conversational leadership elements. Ten key findings supported the conversational leadership elements of intimacy, interactivity, inclusion, and intentionality.

Conclusions: The study supported Groysberg and Slind’s (2012b) 4 elements of conversational leadership and identified specific behaviors that exemplary city mangers practice to lead their organizations. The culmination of research identified four conclusions. City managers must (a) engage in conversations that promote trust and listening attentively to engage stakeholders in honest communication, (b) focus development strategies to cultivate a culture of open dialogue and a two-way exchange of information, (c) use strategies to gain active contributors to ensure a member’s commitment to organizational goals, (d) use conversation to create clarity of message, provide focus, and elicit feedback on goals and directions.

Recommendations: Further research is needed on city managers practicing conversational leadership in different regions of the United States. Additionally, research is needed on for-profit, publicly traded companies and professional sports organizations and the use of conversational leadership.