I learned a great lesson the other day. But first, some background. I’ve discovered that the older I get, the more experience I have. The more experience I have, the quicker I am to make decisions and move to the next decision. The quicker I move, the less I reflect. The less I reflect, the less I listen. The less I listen, the less I learn. The less I learn, the less I can effectively lead. Sounds like a bad out-of-control spiral. It not only sounds like a bad spiral, it is a bad spiral.
The lesson can be summed up in four words. Listen, learn, then lead. Wow. Powerful.
Leaders have a natural bent towards action. That’s me. That’s not a bad thing. But it can be a bad thing when we move too quickly, ignore our team, or worse, make them feel that their opinion is not valued. Or even worse, we don’t empower and equip them to make decisions because it takes longer for them than it does for us.
Okay, this is becoming a concern in my life. If I am truly to listen, learn, then lead, there are a few things I need to change to make sure that I am effective in this process.
- Assume that everyone has something to offer. Everyone does! It’s always amazing to me to see how much people think differently than me. That different way of thinking provides huge perspective for me.
- Be a secure leader. Nothing shuts communication and learning more than being insecure in your leadership. When I am secure, I am able to listen more attentively and possibly change my thinking.
- Walk the halls slowly. It’s important to take time out of the busy schedule and go meet with people informally. This is not about taking up peoples productive time. It’s about relationship building. I need to intentionally reach out and meet with those I minister with (volunteers, staff) and connect with them. Get to know them on a personal level. Connect. As it’s been said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
- Spend intentional time thinking. I really struggle with this. I am a mover. I go from one project to the next event to another project without stopping and reflecting. 30 minutes a day, I need to spend time thinking and reflecting on my thoughts and the good thoughts of others. I need time to harvest the richness out of my experience and the experience of others.
- Pray to God to help me listen more than I speak. Solomon asked for wisdom. I badly need the same thing.
- Lead with full confidence knowing that I spent time gathering thoughts and feedback from the team and those I serve.
Leadership is relational by nature. Listening is a big part of being relational. I read somewhere once that when a leader is done learning, he is done leading. I don’t want that to be me.
Listen, learn, then lead.