Servant Leader: Are You Listening?

Servant Leader: Are You Listening?

Some years ago, I wrote this post on Servant Leadership. The question I posed was: Are You Listening? All too often, those who would put themselves forward as leaders spend more time talking than listening. In the present campaign, we have one candidate talking incessantly - indeed, practically screaming about the Neighborhoods -- while the other is seen talking at one photo-op after another. Neither one appears to be listening. What they do not appear to realize is that it's in the listening that a Servant Leader begins to understand and, only with understanding, can that person lead effectively.

Listen and learn. How many times have we heard that expression? Odd, isn’t it that no one ever said talk and learn. Why not? The reason is obvious: We learn when we listen – when we actively listen. When we really hear what’s being said, in all of its context. The tone. The tenor. The texture. The actual words. Then, and only then, can we understand.

A true servant leader listens to those around him. He listens to colleagues. He listens to subordinates. He listens to himself – the inner voice that calls him. Listening affirms those who are speaking. It enhances their self-esteem and helps to build the trust that is critical to leading an organization.

In his epistle, James tells us: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…. (James:1:19)” If we are quick to hear what others have to say, we are being respectful of them and their points of view. Through such active listening one can truly understand others. Through understanding, one gains trust. Given that trust, it becomes easier to hear the truth – no matter how unpleasant it may be. No one can lead well if he is unaware of what’s going on around him.

In today’s New York Times, there is an article in which the giant retailer, Wal-Mart, is alleged to have covered up extensive use of bribes in Mexico to build stores there. It is alleged that the then-CEO of Wal-Mart’s Mexican subsidiary not only knew of the bribes but may well have authorized them. The Times report indicates that when the allegations were reported to Wal-Mart’s CEO, he not only kept quiet but went so far as to rebuke the investigators – saying their investigation was overly aggressive.

The true servant leader would have listened, respected those to whom he was listening, and reflected upon what he heard. Then he would have acted to right the situation.

If you aren’t listening, you can not lay claim to being a servant leader. If you aren’t listening, your people will stop talking. When they do, the course is set for your organization’s undoing.

So, servant leader: Are you listening?

Posted on 18 May 2017, 8:21 - Category: Leadership

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