It’s not just about ideas

Having a vision is one part of being a leader. But temperament matters too.

I am a woman. I realize that is obvious, but it’s important to what I am about to say. It’s not enough for a leader to have good ideas. The question is: are you willing to listen to other people who might help you tweak your ideas and help you achieve your goals? And if so, who are you willing to listen to?

Mostly, we only want to listen to people who are like us. And for women in the workplace, or really any person from any marginalized group, not being listened to is a problem. A BIG PROBLEM!

We all have biases and we all like to have our egos stroked. We like people who agree with us. But if you are planning to lead and actually accomplish amazing things, you need to expand who you are willing to listen to!

I am pretty sure that every single woman who has worked in a professional office has been ignored when she had something important to say about the plans being made. And what she had to say was mission critical. And she was ignored and problems resulted, problems that could have been avoided if she had been listened to. Why wasn’t she listened to? Because the men in the room couldn’t see past the fact she was a woman to actually hear what she had to say.

Yes, sexism is still a big friggin problem in the workplace. Sure, they aren’t patting our bottoms and asking us to get them coffee anymore, but the old habit of dismissing what women are saying, is a habit that dies hard.  And like I said, I’m pretty sure that people of color also have experienced this – a LOT.

This is absolutely a leadership issue. Different people have different issues, concerns, biases, triggers and so forth. It is very easy to see those differences as handicaps. If you haven’t experienced something, it’s easy to dismiss the experience when someone tells you about it. But here is why good leaders, don’t dismiss what they are being told just because they can’t relate to it.

Good leaders listen because they understand that their own viewpoint is limited to their experience and their experience is limited. There is a ton of stuff I have never experience. The same is true for pretty much everyone. Yes, you may have good ideas, but finding out what other people know helps shore up your deficiencies. Even and especially the deficiencies you didn’t even know you had!

Good leaders are humble in temperament. Being humble doesn’t mean not having big dreams. It means understanding you can still learn and being open to learning. All that learning, helps you to be a better leader.

If someone tells you – you aren’t listening to them. Stop defending your ideas and start listening. They probably really do have something to say that you would benefit from hearing.

To learn more about how to listen instead of argue check out – The Art of Socratic Jujitsu -

To uncover and control your hidden biases that are preventing you from even realizing how much you aren’t listening to certain people – take this course – it’s free – you’ll be glad you did - 

And finally, if you struggle with interpersonal communication with people who are different from you – consider taking this course on how to bridge the generational divide. While the course is about how to help boomers and millennials work together more effectively, the communication strategies presented are applicable to everyone. 

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