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Listening & Leadership

“I never thought about how much listening is part of leading.”

This was a quote from one of my coaching clients. He was used to thinking of leaders as those in control, those who spoke the most, those who directed others on what they should do. He thought of leaders as the ones who make things happen. This is common, too common. We love stories of individuals who overcome odds all by themselves.

In reality, we know that most victories are team efforts. We simply achieve more when everyone contributes. Leadership is not about being the loudest person in the room, but about bringing people together. You will do that much better through encouraging all voices to be heard. Become an active listener vice someone who just wants to speak. Contribute your thoughts and then build on those of others too.

Executive presence is a key component of this. Without it, your unique contributions won’t be part of the effort. Listening and making connections with others is the foundation of leadership. This communicates that you do belong where you are. By demonstrating that we focus with others on the shared goal, we will be heard. In this way, we can actually lead even without being formally in charge. Leadership is about others, not about you – but you have to be noticed as well.

As I noted last time, I found that too many articles focus too much on simply dressing for success. I instead recommend the book Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. As a book, there is space to discuss many different components of this key skill.

Hewlett focuses on your actions, your communication style, and of course on appearance too. She has a weird fixation on Angelina Jolie too, but the book is full of solid advice. You can probably get by with selectively skimming, though this is a good audiobook too.

Consume this content (blogs included) and intentionally practice your executive presence skills. Ask others for feedback and become keen observers on how others act. Focus especially on how the actions of others affect your attitude about being part of the group. Show up with your whole self, get your seat at the table, and make your voice heard. Make sure others are heard too. You owe it to whatever team you are on – let them get your best ideas and your best effort.

Now, go make it happen -- Tom

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