Why leaders listen to their people?

Great leaders are good listeners; they pay attention to their people’s ideas

Great leaders are good listeners. They are no more the answering machines, which means, people with all the answers; instead they are the questioning machines, i.e. people who can lead with questions and get answers from their followers. Today’s knowledge workers are capable of lots of good ideas. Leaders of successful organizations know how to tap into the ideas of its people.

Late C.K Prahalad once said: “Some leaders are like banyan tree. Nothing grows under them.” Great leaders are committed to people development. They are committed to developing the next generation leaders. They influence their followers to aspire, act and achieve greater heights. But on the other hand the banyan tree approach to leadership will not permit the follower’s opinions and ideas to be heard or validated.

Listening to people also means saying YES to your team member. Amazon has a cultural practice of ‘The Institutional Yes’. It’s a default YES response to an idea whenever a subordinate talk about a great idea with a manager at Amazon. As a manager, to say NO is quite difficult in this context, unless you are prepared to write a two-page thesis on why you rejected the subordinate’s idea and explaining why you consider it as a bad idea.

For example the mistake of not listening to the new ideas of an employee by name John Lasseter costed the company Walt Disney 7.4 billion dollars. John Lasseter was the head of Pixar Animation, after his former boss at Disney fired him.

Listening is a skill of empathy. Today’s leaders must possess great interpersonal skills, i.e. EQ over IQ, to understand and absorb their follower’s dreams and nightmares. Great leaders listen to their people without judgment and assumptions. They build rapport, develop strong bond and act as a chief team player to their group rather than a leader with a title.

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