It is an important challenge to address, and I’ve learned the hard way, that the most powerful advocate for the team is the Leader; the most likely to be out of touch with the will of the group is also me, the Leader.
My enemy is my growing emotional intelligence, which will lull me into believing I am super connected to the zeitgeist when more likely I am growing more influential and powerful which means there is no question that many are beginning to tell me exactly what they think I want to hear. The Emperor is beginning to have New Clothes!
If you take the study of leaders and leadership seriously (highly likely if you are reading this!) are beginning to learn that your experience and growth in part depend on an instinctive intuition, your growing inner compass helping you be more and more effective as a leader – but my experience is that it is exactly this that starts you on a fork from what is really going on in the team.
- As a wiser soul you spot this and embark on a tactical set of methods to keep your connections
- Informal chats with co-workers at ‘off duty’ numeral ground, the coffee pot, the corridor, the lunch queue
- skip level one to ones
- Listening tours
- Office hours
- Employee polls
- Formal feedback tools
But it is all a waste of time if you have already decided, are not actually listening or even if you are listening slip into post rationalization as a method for proving your intuition was right all along.
It is important to know what is on the mind of the group and not because you should parrot it. That lacks authenticity and I am not a fan of the concept of ‘servant leader’ (not because I am not a fan of the excellent and nurturing shepherd) but because I believe leadership is more than administration, requires risk and inspiration, creativity and failure making the shepherd role necessary but not sufficient for great leaders. It is important because of the critical role of advocate. To trust and to follow you your constituents need to know you will advocate for them with fairness, equity and consistency. How can you do that if you don’t know what matters?
As well as not parroting, you are not seeking popularity – if you learn what the group believes and you know it to be wrong, mistaken, misguided still you must stand against it, offer another way while giving the belief validation and representation anyway.
To hear and not listen is about as stupid as a leader can be. Exercise your advocates muscle every day. Go! Start now..