…And Why The World’s Politicians Are In Trouble!
09/15/2016 – Great leadership requires the ability to listen effectively. There is no doubt about it. And every single day you can see it pretty much anywhere you look. Example? I am on a plane right now flying home from a conference in Naples Florida. Up until a few minutes ago I was catching up on the news and reading the articles in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. I will have to say I am a little taken aback by what I am reading.
From one article to the next, I am learning that no matter their party or country, today’s politicians are in trouble. Many of them are in danger of losing their positions and political influence. Apparently, having no faith or trust in your politicians is not a something that is limited to Americans. It is now, it seems, a global issue.
The inside front page of The New York Times has a long article about the trouble that Angela Merkel, the Prime Minister of Germany, is facing as she heads toward re-election next year. The Wall Street Journal is reporting about Spain’s financial and political struggles. Once again, the lack of leadership has motivated the Catalans (those that live in the Northern part of Spain) to call for their independence. They are hoping to separate from Spain and make Barcelona their capital.
Other stories go into detail about the still lasting effects of Britain’s departure from the EU. Many of the countries that remain have questioned the future of the union and those leading the effort. And of course, article after article details the frustration in this country. So many people are fed up with our current leaders and more so with those running for President. Those were the main stories. But every article was peppered with other world leaders who are struggling to create a following and struggling to lead. Those politicians in Italy, France and around the world may currently hold the title of leadership but they are failing to hold onto it.
Why? Because these politicians are not leading. The very definition of leadership is about inspiring people, motivating them to take action, and ensuring they feel committed. Leadership means helping others to feel they are a part of something greater than themselves. On that point, not one of these politicians fills that role. Especially not in this country.
Oh, they may be doing many of things that leaders do; making tough decisions, setting a strategic vision, and building a leadership team. But they are missing the most critical of leadership skills. This leadership skill matters more than all of the others combined. And this leadership skill is the foundation for effective leadership.
To truly define yourself as a leader, you need to listen first, listen a lot, and listen effectively. Without listening, nothing else matters. You may be setting strategic direction, but it is a direction anyone else wants to go? You may be making tough decisions but are those decisions related to anything that your constituents care about? Listening matters. Listening sets the stage for how you lead, what you need to focus on, and what matters most to those you are leading.
So how do you listen effectively?
First and foremost you ask questions. Great open ended questions that gets your potential followers talking. Telling you what is important to them, what they value and what their priorities are. If you want to listen, if you want to hear what people are saying you need to begin by asking questions.
Second, you need to pay attention, meaning that you listen to actually hear what they say. Far too often, listening is about waiting for your turn to talk, instead of focusing on what people are saying. As a leader if you pay attention when people are talking they will provide you not only the information you need to lead successfully but the language you need to communicate it.
Third, you need to take action, quickly and effectively. As a leader, listening without action is not really listening. People believe they were heard when they see their words put into action. Taking action builds trust and trust creates a following.
Ask For Feedback
Fourth, consistently ask for feedback, input, and ideas. As a leader, you need to realize you are often removed from the day-to-day issues that are seriously impacting your team and those that you are leading. So you need to take the time to go to the source, ask for feedback and then start the cycle again.
So yes, there are many skills that you need to be a leader. Many of today’s leaders and politicians exhibit several. But if you forget how to listen effectively none of the rest of those skills really matter. In a world that is fast paced, full of white noise, constantly changing, as leaders we need to understand that people want and need to be heard. The better and more powerful listener you become the stronger a leader you will be!