When Leaders Listen

As kids, we think the boss’s job is to bark out orders and get people to comply. At home, our parents tell us what to do. In school, our teachers and professors make the assignments.

But something different came through clearly in my 20+ years of research and two decades in leadership positions. The people who win—especially when trying to change how business is done—well, they’re not the people who bark out orders. It’s the leaders who listen. Think about it:


– When leaders ask people for their ideas about an initiative and then listen, they find out quickly how much interest there is, who’s interested, and how much more they need to emphasize the topic if it’s going to gain traction.

– When leaders don’t listen, they’re blind to this insight.


– When leaders listen to people—especially during a change—they get a much more realistic solution set. It’s not necessarily the solution set the leaders thought would work, but given that their people are closer to the action, their people’s ideas are much more likely to work in reality…and to stick.

– When leaders don’t listen, they develop ideas that are far from the action—ideas that are less likely to work.


-When leaders listen, they learn more about their own business. They might be surprised by some of the solutions put forth; turns out things may be different from what they thought. Learning this can be hard to accept, but it allows leaders to face reality earlier.

– When leaders don’t listen, they miss this important learning and face these realities later…possibly too late.


– When leaders listen, people feel heard. The initiative becomes their idea, not just the leaders’. People buy in.

– When leaders don’t listen, people go through the motions. They may comply once, but given that the idea is top-down and naïve, there’s no reason to change habits.


People ask me, “Can leadership skills be learned?” I’ll talk more about this in future newsletters, but the answer is yes. I mean, can we learn to listen? I, myself, can tell you that—even if I had to learn it the hard way—I learned it. Here’s hoping you learn it the easy way—by listening to this hard-learned advice.

Let me know what you think (i.e. I want to listen and hear!). I look forward to being in touch.

Al Comeaux