Leadership: Talkers and Listeners.

It never fails to amaze me how how many bosses are such poor leaders.  The reason, I believe, is that those who are doing the promoting tend to value qualities such as determination, confidence and presentation skills amongst the best indicators of leadership potential, often resulting in the promotion of those most ambitious to climb the ladder.

Furthermore, while they may not realise it, decision makers are highly influenced by the candidate’s ability to “play the game” also known as “managing upwards”.  These people are good talkers able to tell a great story about success, and place themselves in the starring role.

In other words, leaders are often made into leaders not because they have the right skills for leadership, but because they impress, and it’s easy to confuse an impressive personality for leadership potential.

There comes a point, however, when true leadership qualities are required because if they are not present then the right things don’t happen, people leave and organisations begin to fail.

Let’s look at organisations.

For me there are three types of asset in a business: financial, capital and human.

Humans control the financial and capital assets, so I would argue that the best bosses are the ones that are good at managing people rather than those that are good at managing the financial or capital assets.  Interestingly, many organisations promote on the basis of technical achievements – a finance person may be promoted because they are good at making investment decisions, an operations specialist is promoted because they make sound decisions about organising the equipment or properties owned by the business.

Organisations often fail to realise that once promoted these people do less of what they are good at, and instead are expected to direct others who manage these other resources, yet the employer rarely consider whether the person also has the required people management skills.

Managing people is very much about listening because listening effectively builds trust. If I feel heard then I am more likely to put my faith in your judgement.  In other words, trust means a person will follow their leader.

If you want to be a successful leader, any leader, you need followers.  To get followers you need people to trust you and believe in your vision.  To get people to trust you, you need to show you understand them and you can only do that by listening carefully and empathically to them.

When looking for leaders I would argue for seeking out the good listeners before the good talkers.

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