by Joan Marques
Have you ever realized how easy it is to find
illustrations about good leadership? In an eye opening guest-session led by
the well-respected Chair of the Business Department at the University where I
am lecturing, he illustrated this is an amazingly simple way. He asked my
students a question and they all raised their hands. Then he encouraged them
to raise their hands again if they really agreed with his statement, but to
raise them all the way this time. It was this slight difference in raising
their hands that the Chair pointed out as being a way to perceive leadership:
“Leadership is about raising your hand all the way: about stretching yourself
to the very limit instead of settling for mediocrity.”
The Chair then
asked the group what they considered important in effective leadership. The
first answer that came out of the crowd was: listening. The speaker
immediately confirmed that listening is truly an art. He chose to elaborate
broadly on this phenomenon for a while. He commented that being a good
speaker is a nice thing, but it remains less than half the value of good
leadership. “For talking just draws upon one’s own knowledge,” he says, “But
listening enriches your leadership qualities and creates goodwill among the
ones that are listened to.”
Subsequently, the Chair listed 6 types of
listening, as he perceived them:
1. Pretending: This is a shortcoming we all
are guilty of sometimes: we then pretend to listen to another person while we
have a whole line of other thoughts and ideas running through our mind at the
same time. This is the case that emphasizes the difference between hearing
and listening: our ears are open, but our mind is closed.
This is actually equal to non-listening. We just choose not to register what
the other person is communicating to us.
3. Partial listening: We choose to
just hear what we want to hear. But when the hard part arrives, we prefer to
let that slip by.
4. Complete listening: This is where we listen without
judgment: we listen with the ears open and with the mind open: we give our
5. Empathic listening: In this case we listen with ears, mind
AND heart open: we try to see things from the perspective of the speaker,
realizing that words may sound the same, but may mean entirely different
things, seen from different perspectives.
6. Silent listening: this is the
type of listening that requires a special mastery. We have to realize here
that our mind never rests, and that it therefore tends to have its own
monologues while we listen to others. Thoughts about the time, about other
duties awaiting us, about feelings or other issues, may interfere with the
purity of our attention. In silent listening the mind is refrained from doing
two things at the same time, and restricted to solely listening to the
speaker: entirely focused.
So, a good leader is definitely one that is
able to listen well, thereby disregarding culture, background, nationality,
or even personal convictions, because he or she realizes that these will
color his or her view.
Another vital tool in good leadership is the
heart. This may sound emotional, but it is not. The heart is more than just a
pump: it brings about the feeling a leader needs to be able to empathize with
his or her followers.
The chair next cited a 1995 Harvard research,
which found out that 85% of effective leadership can be attributed to
character. And character has to do with values. Values, in turn, pertain to
one’s perception on what is right and what is wrong. What is right, finally,
has to do with what one perceives as honesty, which can be defined in
numerous ways, one of which is: “saying what you do and doing what you say.”
The chair wittily remarked here, “Honesty is the easiest thing to do,
because, if you are honest, you don’t have to remember.” In one breath he
cited the great Mahatma Gandhi who stated: “I do what I say; I say what I
think; I think what I feel.”
Upon a question from a student that the
corporate environment sometimes challenges us to refrain from doing the right
thing or being honest, the Chair replied, “If you are doing the right thing
for the right reasons, nature will ultimately create the right opportunities
The Chair subsequently went into the value of appreciation
toward good leadership. He mentioned that the sincerest form of appreciation
is imitation. With that he meant, that if you believe in something, you
should act upon it. Example? If you believe the universe is good, you should
also be good. And whatever turns out not to be good for you, will be taken
away from you in the end.
One of the most important initiators toward
good leadership is the determination of reality. One should thereby ask,
“What is my assignment? What is my purpose?” In simple wordings, the Chair
encouraged us to become, as a famous author once cited, “The Columbusses of
our inner space.”
Good leadership, according to the Chair, is also about
integrity and inspiration. However, you will only be able to apply these
skills if you have done the above recommended inner-exploration first in
order to find out about your reality and your values.
And then, good
leadership is about one’s perspectives: it’s about seeing work as an
opportunity instead of a drudge. And it’s about truth. It’s about love as a
caring concern for others, and it’s about non-harming.
leadership is about the 4 L’s:
1. Learning (in which listening is
2. Living (“Being”: living the life that is truly yours)
4. Leaving a Legacy
The best way to determine for
yourself what good leadership means for you is to wonder what you would
answer at age 85 to the following questions: · What would I have liked to
become? · What would I have liked to acquire? · What would I have liked to
experience? · What would I have liked to be my contribution? (How would I
like to be remembered?)
If you manage to formulate an answer to these
questions at this point in your life, you have set out your path, and you
will know which way to go.
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