How Becoming A Good Listener Can Make You A Better Leader
Running a business is an inherently emotional experience. Even the most stoic leaders are bound to find themselves becoming invested not only in outcomes, but in people and processes as well.
While emotional leadership is often regarded as a liability, lack of personal investment can also bring about negative outcomes.
I’ve learned that the best leaders are those who can recognize emotionally-charged situations, rise above the passions of the movement, and maintain a level head. Good leaders are quick to listen and slow to anger.
As much as we work to avoid it, all leaders inevitably run into situations outside of their control. Its an inescapable aspect of running a business—clients, employees, partners, and your product will regularly push you to the very edge of your patience.
While it can be easy to fly off the handle or make a snap decision, I’ve learned that slowing down to listen can help defuse even the most frustrating of situations.
Early on at BodeTree, I was notorious for getting incredibly frustrated with our software development process. We would outline a task that needed to be completed by a certain date, set a timeline, and get to work. However, without fail, the timeline would come and go, and we would have little to nothing to show for it.
Over time, I came to find out that the features I was asking for weren’t as simple and straightforward as I thought. Much of what I was looking to accomplish was dependent on older code that needed to be updated before we could move forward—hence the delays.
My team didn’t always know this was the case until they were neck-deep in the project, causing things to slow down and timelines to slip. Once I stopped and listened to their needs, I realized we needed to set better internal expectations and manage projects more effectively. Had I refused to listen and instead chosen the path of brute force, I would never have been able to help the team move forward.
Always be slow to anger
Leaders often mistake anger for power and fear for respect. But as we can see readily in the news these days, angry bosses and leaders are rarely effective. Having a good yell may feel cathartic in the moment, but it creates a toxic environment and erodes your standing amongst your team.
Its critical for leaders to be patient and rise above the fleeting passions of the moment. My experience has taught me that there are only two paths that are appropriate when faced with frustrating circumstances.
The first choice is to let anger pass and then act. I would always rather guide people to a positive outcome than be “right” in any situation. Sometimes that means recognizing the fact that someone or something may be angering you, but having the maturity to let it slide.
The second choice is to be truly slow to anger. This process requires firm, clear and concise expectations from the start. If people or products continue to perform poorly, document the situation and move towards a permanent resolution. The key here is to be firm without ever flying off the handle.
With that being said, leaders should be allowed to get angry from time to time. In fact, if you find yourself in a conflict-free environment all the time, you can be sure that something is amiss.
Never be passive-aggressive
Nothing is perfect and leaders have an obligation to voice their thoughts and opinions. In fact, those who hold in their anger do a great disservice to themselves and their team. Passive-aggressive managers are most certainly worse than leaders with hair-trigger tempers.
Everyone makes mistakes, and good leaders recognize the need for compassion. The mere act of listening usually solves any issue at hand. If it doesn’t, a firm yet fair approach is warranted. It’s ok for leaders to get angry and downright healthy for them to confront problems as they encounter them. However, remember that good leaders never fly off the handle, no matter what.