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A Leader is a Good Listener

G. Balasubramanian | Chairperson, Board of Advisors, ICSL | Editor-in-Chief, The Progressive School

A leader listens

Ohio Leadership Studies program identifies the following as important behavioural patterns of leaders:

  • Consideration

  • Initiating Structures

Elaborating further on these behavioural patterns, the following qualities are listed under consideration:

  • Concern for people

  • Interpersonal relationships

  • Understanding and appreciating others feelings

  • Finding time to listen to the subordinates

  • Backing up and defending subordinates

  • Willingness to accept suggestions

Of the above, I think one of the neglected aspects is “finding time to listen to the subordinates.” Eictetus, the Greek philosopher remarked: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”


A good leader celebrates his listening skills. He listens to his subordinates and the input he receives may be:

  • A criticism

  • A feedback

  • A warning

  • An assessment

  • A complaint

  • An advice

The inputs received may be helpful both to the leader as well as his subordinate. It may help in easing tension, in clarifying stands, in removing bottlenecks, in ensuring understanding, in enabling a speedy disposal or in correcting or restructuring a system inthe organization. Most often, a good listening event enhances the confidence of the follower on the leader and improves the faith on the leadership. An effective leader


listens not only to the verbal communication of the team member but his body language too.

If any one feels that his image becomes small because he listens to people, he is sadly mistaken. Leaders don’t survive only by the power they hold. The former president of United States D. Eisenhower explicitly states:

You do not lead by hitting people over the head — that's assault, not leadership.

The comments of Admiral James B. Stockdale to his fellow men is noteworthy;

Leadership must be based on goodwill. Goodwill does not mean posturing and, least of all, pandering to the mob. It means obvious and wholehearted commitment to helping followers. We are tired of leaders we fear, tired of leaders we love, and of tired of leaders who let us take liberties with them. What we need for leaders are men of the heart who are so helpful that they, in effect, do away with the need of their jobs. But leaders like that are never out of a job, never out of followers. Strange as it sounds, great leaders gain authority by giving it away.

Do you schedule a little of your time every day to listen to the hearts of your colleagues?

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