Great leaders are great listeners. They encourage others to express their opinions and seriously consider what they hear, even if it challenges pre-existing beliefs http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2013/09/03/6-ways-leaders-can-get-better-results-by-not-talking/. Yet, when we think of great leaders, listening is not the attribute that first comes to mind.
Our perceptions of leadership are heavily influenced by Hollywood. We expect leaders to be tough and decisive with a commanding presence and the strongest voice in the room. This “John Wayne” stereotype is a major contributor to the selection of poor leaders and discourages the promotion of women to senior leadership positions. When this behavior is rewarded early in a career, it is reinforced as the path to success.
In fact, while this type of leadership has its place such as in inspirational addresses to rally the troops to a cause, it is not an effective way to lead in most circumstances. Probably the best example of just how dysfunctional this style can be is what goes on when such a leader chairs the senior leadership team. In this situation, a hard-hitting leader will intimidate the others present. Some will not talk very much. Others will say the things they think the leader wants to hear. And all those around the table are waiting for the leader to talk before they say what they really think, afraid that their ideas will conflict with the leader’s views and thus prove damaging to their careers or at least embarrassing.
[Domineering leaders also tend to run meetings that are of little or no value. Senior team members retreat to the safe ground of reporting on their results and initiatives, presenting an endless number of boring and useless slides to their thoroughly disinterested colleagues. In fact, these meetings destroy value by wasting senior leaders’ time that could be spent productively in their business units http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2013/09/four-areas-where-senior-leader.html
Finally, meetings that do not encourage open and thoughtful discussion of important topics kill the opportunity for group innovation, thus destroying the value of bringing a diverse leadership team to the table.
We live in a society that rewards extroversion, encouraging the selection of vocal individuals as leaders – passing over more thoughtful individuals who will lead in an inclusive and collaborative way. We have forgotten the advice of the ancient sages who told us that a wise man is one who learns from all others. If you want to be a great leader, you need to learn to shut up and listen.You are guaranteed to learn plenty.
Wall Street rewards results, not rhetoric and bluster!