Self-confessed leadership readin’ junkie here. I’ve read all of the classics from Kouzes and Posner, Collins, Drucker, and Covey to the lesser known The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus by Harvey, Cottrell, Lucia, and Hourigan.
Conduct a search on Google using the word “leadership” and you’ll get about 759,000,000 results in…0.60 seconds. And who knows how many books have been written on the subject. I suppose I could do a search but I’ll assume it’s a lot as well.
With everything that has been written about the art of leadership, why does it still go horribly wrong more often than it should?
I’ve long believed that we over-complicate most things in life and leadership is one of those things we complicate. We can spit out all of fundamentals of great leadership… you know, integrity, being authentic, being a visionary, blah, blah, blah.
But, let’s make it easy.
Want to become a better leader? Stop talking and start listening.
Here’s the simple lesson:
Listen to those who have a different opinion rather than to only those who agree with you.
That’s where the magic happens. That’s how you grow.
Shrewd leaders know there is far more to be gained by listening rather than speaking. Show me a leader who doesn’t recognize the value of listening to others and I’ll show you a leader who is ineffective and rules by superiority and fear and probably with an unhealthy dose of self-importance.
Barking orders does not have the same impact as engaging in meaningful conversation, but this assumes you actually take the time to have conversations and you take measures not to be surrounded by “yes men” and “yes women.” It stunts your growth as a leader if you listen only to those who agree with you. Take measures to actively seek out dissenting thoughts and opinions.
Wisdom is calculated by the number of steps you journey and when you reach a point in your life where you have your “light bulb moment,” you begin to understand that wisdom is not only gained by our individual experiences but also from the words, lessons, and wisdom of others.
Stephen Covey hit on a crucial point when he said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
We tend to view dialogue like a tennis match. It’s the back and forth. Your “opponent” hits the ball to you and your job is to hit it back. You want to score the point; you want to win.
But to listen effectively, listen to receive the meaning without worrying about “scoring a point.” Once you understand, you can respond appropriately. Being quiet gives you the opportunity to hear the words, the tone, and the meaning behind the words. Listening to have your opinions corroborated or your ego stroked is short-sighted at best. Listen to be challenged to learn something new or to put a new spin on an old thought.
Effective listening helps to resolve conflicts, build trust, inspire people, and strengthen teams.
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