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Some Comments on Leadership
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.

2. Ignoring: 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 full attention.

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 for you.”

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.

Finally, leadership is about the 4 L’s:
1. Learning (in which listening is covered)
2. Living (“Being”: living the life that is truly yours)
3. Loving (Caring)
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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Joan Marques, holds an MBA, is a doctoral candidate in Organizational Leadership, and a university instructor in Business and Management in Burbank, California. You may visit her web site at Joan's manual "Feel Good About Yourself," a six part series to get you over the bumps in life and onto success, can be purchased and downloaded at:

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