To lead is to listen
All leadership has a context, whether you are running a campaign, running a meeting, or running a project. And all leadership is concerned with effecting change by completing a specific task. How do you relate the two? What is it that you must do?
The relationship between the context (important or urgent) and the task (easy, complex, sustained, or quick) is often overlooked. What are the qualities that allow you to mediate between the principals in this relationship? We think there are five categories you should pay attention to:
Awareness – unless you set out to be as aware as you can possibly be, you will fail. You must listen to the context, understand its nuances, and master its complexities. If you are in charge of a team, know that team; if you are running a project, know it deeply.
Clarity – without absolute clarity, you will have wasted effort, perhaps counterproductive effort. You need absolutely to convey what it is that you want your people to achieve and have your intentions been clearly communicated?
Language – your language must be precise, inclusive, and inspiring. Be aware of the connotations of your language: do they match the experience and expectations of your team? Are they culturally broad enough? Do they exclude gender? Your language will be right if you listen to the language of others.
Motivation – we maintain that to motivate anyone you have first to understand and know them; that means listening carefully and purposefully. Theories of motivation abound, and we look at these in later blogs, but whether you are transactional or transformational in your approach, you must base all you do on an understanding of your people.
Collaboration – great leaders tend to lead teams, and teams are best formed by collaborative rather than individualistic behavior. Do all that you can to foster a collaborative ethic, where collective is better than individual gain.
In the Heartstyles approach, each situation (S) we face produces in us, or triggers, specific thoughts (T), and this ultimately leads to how we behave (B): so, S+T=B. Thinking about your own pattern of STB is a step to the awareness and clarity needed in decision-making. Another form of STB is Stop-Think-Breathe, a great way of avoiding rushing into decisions, and essential when you are called upon to lead by listening.