Think of leaders who were powerful communicators: there’s Lincoln’s simple elegance at Gettysburg, FDR on “nothing to fear,” JFK on “ask not what your country can do for you…” and Churchill exhorting England “Never, never, never give up.” We think of Iacocoa on TV, or Reagan telling Gorbachev, “Tear down that wall.” Just this month, British voters were surprised and moved by Liberal Party candidate Nick Clegg whose debating skills helped bring down Gordon Brown. We think of Steve Jobs’ brilliant technology talks and Warren Buffet’s convincing homespun speech.
Talk. Talk. Talk. 300 channels of tv talk. Movies so full of surround sound – like Robin Hood I saw this weekend – and Black Eyes Peas thump-stuttering-truncating-Imabe – that it’s just too fast. A billion tweets a day. Txts on top of emails. “Know your brand. Stick to your message. Get your 20-second elevator pitch ready.” Who the heck has time to listen? Am I mirroring any kind of franticness and stimulus overload you feel on a Monday?
What if the most powerful leadership – from home, to shop or office, to city or even nation – comes from listening deeply and fully? Perhaps what President Obama heard from President Karzai last week was more important for American foreign policy than what our President said to him. If the job of a leader – whether she’s the boss or not – is to get the best out of others, doesn’t it stand to reason that how she listens may generate more knowledge and more buy-in than what she has to say? Maybe it’s less important to figure out what to say to your kids about their future, drugs, or grades, than how to listen to your kids about these and other topics that matter to them. Maybe heightened listening can take your staff and co-workers and boss to greater clarity, focus, and alignment.
So, why not begin the week considering the power of your listening. And if you’d like to learn better how to listen powerfully, find some quiet time to listen to my show from Saturday. I had tremendous expert guests who were all about – of all things – listening! (That episode and a bunch of other great shows are easily accessible now directly from my website.)
Listen to lead with your best self,
P.S. As I was perusing great Churchill quotes I came across this great one for everyday leadership: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”