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A Leader’s Job is Not to Get What They Want

An arrogant leader who is unwilling to listen may be leading a compliant group, but they will not be leading a committed team.

Police Chiefs do this with their frontline officers. Sales managers do this with their sales people. Politicians seem to do it with just about everybody. They say they are listening, but they are actually just waiting to talk – and trust continues to erode. I saw this in my corporate career with our Vice President of Sales. He didn’t listen. He said he did. But he didn’t. He would make eye contact, nod his head and make affirming sounds, just like all the HR sponsored classes on listening had told him to do. But he didn’t really listen, and our team knew it. In the end, we knew he was going to get his agenda accomplished no matter what we said or how convincingly we said it. We felt like it was a waste of time and energy to bring him real feedback because the dance was always the same. He told us he was listening. We presented our arguments. Then, he did what he had always intended on doing. A leader’s willingness to listen to people is a window into their character. The issue really is a willingness to listen. It is not the ability to listen. For my former Vice President, he had been through all the classes. He was using all the right listening techniques. But, his arrogance got in the way of him truly hearing what we had to say. His head nods and affirming statements were wasted on us. As soon as we figured out he didn’t truly care what we had to say, we were no longer a committed team. An arrogant leader who is unwilling to listen may be leading a compliant group, but they will not be leading a committed team. A team that believes the leader is not listening to them will follow that leader because they have to. A leader who is willing to listen will have people who follow because they want to. There is a big difference in those teams, and it all goes back to the leader’s willingness to listen. It takes Humility to formulate a plan and then stop and listen as our team questions our information, methods, or decisions. It takes Humility to truly work to understand the point of view of the people we are called to lead. And it takes Humility to adjust our plans when someone else has a better idea. Exercising Humility in front of our team can look like: ● Asking the team to find the problems in our plans. ● Avoiding getting angry when we hear negative feedback.

● Asking them to propose alternatives to our plans.

● Being willing to change our plans if a better plan emerges.

It is not the leader’s job to get what he or she wants. It is the leader’s job to find the best way forward. A humble leader knows that the friction felt in those conversations will make them better and the ideas that come out are more likely to be successful.

Dig Deep Questions:

● Have you ever seen a team shut down because a leader doesn’t listen?

● Was that a compliant group or committed team?


It is important to us for you to have an opportunity to exercise Humility, not only individually, but together as a team. This is why we have created practice cards with scenarios. We invite you to discuss as a team what it means to exercise Humility via our Coaching Cards.

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