The Otherside of the Coin
At home I try to be a good head of the family; I give my family members the freedom to talk and express themselves. In my opinion it is a sign of democracy as well as a parental strategy to build self esteem in my children.
I’m not alone; many of you may be doing just the same thing. People at home must be happy with you for the freedom granted. But as leaders, we need to ask our selves this question: Do we listen to what our followers have to say?
We have to be grateful to those who allow us to enjoy the freedom of speech. But that’s not enough. We must go the extra mile to demand for the right to be listened to.
What is the relevancy of speaking when nobody is going to listen to you? Whenever citizens of a nation celebrate the freedom of speech granted by that state, I always ask myself if the authority that granted the people freedom to talk finds time to listen to them.
In economics and business there is a popular phenomenon known as the Principal Agent relationship. The Principal-Agent relationship is the understanding that the agent will act for and on behalf of the principal.
The agent assumes an obligation of loyalty to the principal that he will follow the principal’s instructions and will neither intentionally nor negligently act improperly in the performance of the act. This relationship heavily lies on the good communication between the principal and the agent.
The leaders by default happen to be the agents and the people who vote them into offices are the principals.
It’s unfortunate that leaders choose to destroy the bi-directional communication and maintain a one way communication system, that’s from the leaders to the led. Leadership is a conversation just like any other personal communication.
Personal conversation flourishes to the degree that the participants stay close to each other, figuratively as well as literally. Where conversational intimacy prevails, those in authority seek and earn the trust of those who work under that authority.
Leaders who spend most of their time listening are at an advantage over those who choose to do the talking all the time. While some may be impressed with how well you speak, the right people will be impressed with how well you listen.
Great leaders are great listeners. They only have a simple formula; talk less and listen more. The best leaders are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners.
They recognize that knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening. Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader who comes to mind…you will find they are very adept at reading between the lines. The best leaders possess the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard.
It’s time for our leaders to stop talking and start listening. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by dominating it.
In this age of instant communication everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind, they fail to realize the value of everything that can be gleaned from the minds of others.
There are many reasons why leaders fail to listen. Some claim they don’t have time to listen. It is also true that listening is an inconvenience to leaders with a bias toward action. The belief that you are knowledgeable is also another reason.
The more you think you know, the less you need to listen. Sometimes self-protection invites leaders to listen for someone to blame while others stop listening when they have heard the story before. There are times when people are boring or when you just don’t care or when you have already made up your mind.
In several countries we have heard cases when governments pay deaf ear to the general demands of the people and instead concentrate on what they think ought to be done first.
Buying expensive monster sized vehicles for government ministers, amidst protests from the public, is a sign of insensitivity of leaders to the demands of their own people. This immensely undermines government’s commitment to good governance.
The citizens give leaders the mandate to serve by commissioning them into those different offices. The very citizens demand accountability, honesty and trust among other things from the leaders.
It is unfortunate that these leaders do not recognize the people who gave them the offices. The problem with government is that they think they understand the people they lead.
Provident leaders have it in mind that the people who vote them into those offices will always matter even after elections and must be listened to. Leaders who do otherwise end up digging trenches and find themselves stuck there.