How listening is a leadership superpower
Leadership is really the art of getting the best out of people.
There is a misconception of what leadership is.
In many modern cultures these days - leadership is officially handed to somebody who appears to have the most experience / the most impressive string of degrees / the one who knows how to bully others into getting what he or she wants.
But leadership is really the art of getting the best out of people - and to do that, leadership is a practice in which the aim is to create the conditions under which the best emerges out of people.
One of the most powerful ways of doing that is to give people the mental time and space to work through a problem and find the solution for themselves.
As Nancy Kline the author of the book, Time to think, suggests; 'The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people's thinking.'
In a 2010 interview with the BBC, legendary actor Alan Rickman makes the point that quality acting, acting which an audience really believes and engages people, hinges on the quality of your listening during a performance, not on how well you say your lines:
This exact same lesson holds true for leadership too. Great leadership is dependent on the 'intensity and accuracy' of your listening.
Leadership is not about having all of the answers - in our current times of uncertainty that is simply not possible. But what is important is the ability to pay attention to people, to really listen to what they have to stay and the perspective that they offer - and then to create the conditions under which you encourage them to becomes the best versions of themselves as a result.
In a recent Fin24 article in which Deloitte Consulting apparently surveyed employees in the South Africa retail sector - 87% of respondents indicated that they doubted that they have the right leadership in place to take their company into the future successfully.
One statement from the article that stood out for me was: "What the retail sector needs to address is how to get the right leaders to lead from the front." - which is a management platitude ,that is this case, I disagree with.
What many industry sectors need in this country is not somebody who can 'take charge' and 'champion the crusade forward' like some commander from the middle ages, but rather leadership with a strong vision of the future for their organisations who are then humble enough to allow the people that they employ in the company to collaborate and co-create the way forward for the organisation. Good collaboration and a culture of cooperation requires good listening skills from leadership.
“The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say "I." And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say "I." They don't think "I." They think "we"; they think "team." They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but "we" gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”
― Peter Drucker