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From Good to Great
Mom with a View

From Good to Great

On being an effective leader.


New books on leadership seem to be published daily in the business world. Some of the sales are fueled by a desperate desire for a get-rich-quick scheme. But the rest, I assume, appeal to those who want to rise to positions of leadership but don't know how, or those who are in leadership positions but can't seem to exercise it effectively.

Although I believe in general that "great leaders aren't made, they're born" -- that the drive, ambition, people skills and integrity of character required to be a top quality leader are most often innate -- there is some fine tuning we can do.

Perhaps one of the most important traits of a true leader is the ability both to listen to others and to make them feel heard. If people feel heard they will follow you anywhere, even at great self-sacrifice. A recent study demonstrated that the majority of us are willing to accept a lower income if we feel appreciated at work. A leader makes his or her employees feel that way, by valuing their input and ideas.

A frequent complaint voiced about presidents and prime ministers is that they don't listen to anyone else's opinion. We're willing to accept many other moral and character flaws -- but not this.

To achieve greatness, the focus needs to be on others, not ourselves.

Good leaders need to listen -- and respond. I was once invited to a meeting of a non-profit organization to plan their upcoming fundraiser. Many creative and thoughtful ideas were proposed and discussed. Subsequently we discovered that the event had actually already been planned. The meeting was to give those involved with the organization a "sense of involvement". I guess they were going for the "sense" and not the "involvement". All attendees felt used and discontinued further active participation in the organization.

Effective leaders implement the ideas of others -- and credit them for it. This gives everyone a stake in the success of the business or cause. It also enhances the popularity of the leader.

Some (not very good) leaders labor under an illusion that everything has to come from them. Yet they are more revered and loved when they truly listen to others. And of course the institution thrives more. It shouldn't come as a surprise that one individual can't possibly think of all the ideas and innovations. In making space for others, everyone benefits.

This is true in our personal and spiritual lives as well. In allowing room for other people, we benefit the most. In listening to others, we create real relationships. In responding to others we make them feel heard and deepen the connection. And we may even learn some new/better ways of being, get some help parenting or some marriage tools – maybe even a cooking, shopping or business tip.

It's valuable to focus on this essential leadership skill in all aspects of our lives. Of course we can only grow spiritually when we open ourselves up to the experience and knowledge of others, to insights outside our own and ultimately to the wisdom of the Almighty Himself.

Business books are not about good leaders, they're about great ones. To achieve greatness, the focus needs to be on others, not ourselves. To run a successful company may only require a good leader. But someone who listens to others, whatever their status, who in his humility is receptive to the words of others, and consequently the teachings of the Almighty is a great leader. Now that would be a book worth reading.

July 19, 2008

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 5

(5) ruth housman, July 24, 2008 5:34 PM

hear me!

You are right in that listening skills are paramount in leadership. People need to be "heard" and to know they have been "heard". We all need a voice. It's that aural connect with hear/here, meaning being "present' for another person is a gift and it's being in the moment. We all know when others are not listening and we all have opinions and such need.

It's so interesting to write this and to read this because Laurie P. had a comment on this series about finding a simpatico rabbi. My experience with so many of these "leaders" is that they are not good listeners and want to express themselves, rather. In fact, many of the rabbis I have experienced are very busy not listening and that's truly a problem.

As leader is to lieder, so we all need to find the right "song".

(4) Joey, July 24, 2008 10:27 AM

An Addition

Everything Ms. Braverman says here is wise and insightful. It might be good to add, though, that sometimes a leader does need to go against what others say---the Bible, for example, has several leaders who wound up sinning because they listened to popular demand when they knew (or should have known) it was wrong, such as Aaron or King Saul. But obviously it is risky to assume one is right and all others are wrong, one needs to examine one's motives to see if it comes from a true belief in your position or simply ego.

Anyway, just wanted to add that thought. Thanks for this insightful article and God bless!

(3) Lisa, July 23, 2008 12:24 PM

Motives behind a meetting...

Commenting about your article... I really enjoyed reading about it, very profound and meaningful. I had something to pin point on regards to what is mentioned about this reunion that was held and in which was found out that the purpose of it was basically to involved the rest of the group more than to plan together. I personally think it is important for a leader to have some sort of guidelines on regards to what the object or purpose of the meeting and/or of the project (perhaps)is, I don't think this means he/she is doing the whole plan. The leader could probably worked out with one or two other people involved to come out with a plan. However, once gathering together I believe it is important to be flexible to construct the whole plan together as a team.
Also, I believe it is important to know what is behind the scenes. When I say,"Behind the Scenes", I refer to what kind of personalty does the leader has and how he/she tends to lead meetings better. The behind the scenes is rarely notice, because we easily give ourselves to interpretations before finding facts behind actions. (I don't mean this is what I sense from this part of the article, it is just something that frequently happens).

(2) Shammai, July 23, 2008 12:10 AM

Leadership can be developed

I beg to differ to your readers. Leadership can be developed. I belong to Toastmasters International, an international organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills.

With application, I find myself acting more confidently and exerting leadership.

In our monthly magazine, one of our higher-achieving members went from a town worker who spoke no English to mayor of the town in California.

When asked what makes him a great mayor, one citizen said, "He listens to everyone," It is just like you said.

All of the leadership qualities that you enumerated can be learned.

When trying to become more of a leader, do not become discouraged that some already are great leaders. They may have had similar training at an earlier age.

Some people are born just like running things. But with work and the right activity that reflects your talents, you can learn to be a leader too.

(1) Rosemary, July 22, 2008 1:47 PM

Absolutely true

I am a manager of a store, and I confess, sometimes it is not easy to be a leader. But, for sure, if you think by yourself, your are never gonna have the same results as if you get ideas from the whole team!! And alowing them being apart of the business decisions, they will feel more capable and will get much more involved on the job. Thank you for the advertise!!!

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