The bottom line is that when the leader listens, the organization gets helter. Former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca asserted, “Listening can make the difference between a mediocre company and a great one.” That means listening to people up and down the line at every level of the organization to customers, workers, and other leaders.
Dallas-based Chili’s, one of the nation’s top restaurant chains, has prided itself in having leaders who listen. Norman Brinker, onetime owner and chairman of Chili’s, believes that responsive communication is the key to good relations with both employees and customers. He also has lean that such communication pays big dividends. Almost 80 percent of Chili’s menu has come from suggestions made by unit managers.
Listening always pays dividends. The more you know, the better off, are—as long as you maintain perspective and think like a leader. Niccolo Machiavelli, author of The Prince, wrote, “Minds are of three kinds. On capable of thinking for itself; another is able to understand the thinking others; and a third can neither think for itself nor understand the thinking of others. The first is of the highest excellence, the second is excellent, and third is worthless.” To be a good leader, you must be able to not only think for yourself but also understand and learn from the thinking of others.
Is it possible to be a leader without being a listener? The answer is Talk to employees in companies all across the country, and they will tell you that they work for people who do not listen to them.
Is it possible to be a good leader without listening? The answer is no. No one can go to the highest level and take his or her organization there without being a good listener. It simply doesn’t happen, because you can never get the best out of people if you don’t know who they are, where they want to go, why they care, how they think, and what they have to contribute. You can learn those things only if you listen.
Author and speaker Jim Rohn says, “One of the greatest gifts you can give anyone is the gift of attention.” I believe that’s true. But listening to followers isn’t just a gift to them. It benefits the leader too. When leaders listen, they receive others’ insight, knowledge, wisdom, and respect. That puts all of an organization’s assets into play, ready to be marshaled for the fulfillment of the vision and the attainment of its goals. What a wonderful gift.