12 July 2007

Leadership and listening

A log by Michael Wagner gave me the inspiration, that listening is the most important competency a leader can have. A competency followed only by the competency to ask questions based on what you hear. Michael Wagner called it: “Go in stupid, come out with a sale.”

Asking questions is probably one of the most difficult competencies a leader can develop. Everything in his surroundings works against him developing it or if once developed keeping it up to speed.

Listening is one of the most difficult competencies, because it asks from us to take our own thoughts and hold them to the light of our own scrutiny. Really listening means not listening to your own thought, ideas, believes and expectations, but listening to the other. For a leader this is almost impossible, because the own thoughts, expectations and ideas form the basis for their successes. And success strengthens the behavior through which it is created together with the thoughts, ideas and expectations.

So you have learned to be a leader that listens to others. Your own thoughts ko not hinder your attention. But what now? Of what use is the competency to listen to others, without your own internal commentary? Even if those internal thoughts were judgments, solutions or expectations. Maybe its an idea to translate what your heard into questions. Questions that give the other the chance to clarify what he thinks, expects, believes or wants.

And the moment you start asking questions, a leader will face a new obstacle. Because most people do not go to a leader to get listened to, they want their leader tot talk to them. Most people would prefer not to talk when their leader is near, but would want to listen to what their leader has to say. And that is exactly what you can see happening with leaders, they become talkers the longer they are leaders. Or they started out as talkers and their behavior became strengthened, because others will only listen when they are around. This however means, that as a leader you know little about what motivates others. So it is important for a leader to be able to listen and ask questions and preferably in the reverse order. Because asking questions will start the other talking after which you can start listening.

But instead of expecting our leaders to be listeners, we expect them to be talkers. They need to make us feel comfortable with their stories. They must motivate us with their ideas. They must comfort us with their thoughts. The must cheer us up with their expectations. But listening is not what we expect of them. It would be nice, but that is not what they are there for.

09 July 2007

Leadership and dreams

It is sad to see, that most people who according to the Dutch are leaders, not really have dreams. Take for example a dream “everyone has a paid job.” That is more a wish then a dream. Because if it were a dream the work that is important would be paid for. But in the Netherlands that kind of work is seen als valueless, and not worth to pay for. Look at the great number of activities that are done by volunteers, that should be done by professionals who get paid. And jobs that deliver a great value to others in happiness are the worst paid.
But not only is “everyone a paid job” not a dream, it is a charge against everyone who does not earn money with his work. And so someone can and may only be valued if his work makes money. It has come so far, that the amount of money paid for something is what makes something valuable. But slowly but surely it becomes clearer and clearer that most of the work that is paid for is of less and less real value to society.
Take for example the very well paid dj’s and presenters. Their work does not make people work harder. Their work does not lower stress. They only distract people from what they are doing, with their work.
Or take CEO’s who leave their post after a few years with large golden parachutes. Often leaving an organization behind without dreams, waiting for the next CEO to install his dreams. Often that dream is no more then the wish to save money, so he can justify his salary and platinum parachute or at least have it paid.
Or what to say of soccer players, seen weekly on tv, who keep others from behaving correctly towards others. Their dreams often not going any further then scoring the most beautiful goal ever.

But what can a leader do to find your dreams, that will be inspiring and motivating? Dreams a leader will take responsibility for? Dreams that help you to motivate yourself and inspire and motivate others to take up their dreams and help you realize yours? Where do you find such dreams?

Probably the only possibility nowadays is cutting yourself loose from the society, in which it is not about realizing dreams but earning money. And as you have successfully freed yourself from societies shackles you need to take a hard look at society, but now from an independent point of view to see what motivates her members. You will need to find those factors in society that form its core and that can form the basis for a dream. Because in the end the dream will need to fit to the society that will realize it.
As important as knowledge of the society is the positive attitude of the dreamer towards his dream. You need to believe it can be done. In the Netherlands this is a problem, because everybody needs to be taken into account when you want to realize your dream. That includes the people who do not want to cooperate with realizing other peoples dreams or do not want to couple their dreams to others.

In that sense the Netherlands is a country in which to many dreams go lost, because to many people who want to be involved. But also because to many people find that the dreams of others who do not fit their ideas, should not be realized.
Maybe that is the reason why the Dutch have leaders that dare not dream big. They do not believe in their own dreams. Where the solution is so simple: Be positive and expect your dream to come true, the rest will follow as in a dream.