Throughout my life, I have been a student of leadership. In the business and non-profit world, I have worked for leaders and have observed leaders, both good and bad. I have been a leader myself. Leadership fascinates me. Perhaps it fascinates you too. What makes an effective, or even a superlative leader, has been both a personal and professional quest for me.
Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on September 8, 2014
Have you ever worked for a “leader” who would not listen to your ideas, or who wouldn’t ask for your opinion? I have. I would verbally share an idea with them and before I could finish, they would tell me that it wouldn’t work. This type of boss saps the energy out of their organization. Employees turn off any desire to work more effectively, don’t go the extra mile for their customers and don’t put any energy into growing the business. This creates an undesirable working environment, and the best and brightest employees won’t stick around for long.
Learning from this experience, as a young leader I adopted an open culture with my direct reports that encouraged them to share their opinion and input on any issue, and I expected that they in turn would do the same with their direct reports. I utilized the ABCs of decision making in order to come up with the best solution to an issue, relying on input from those employees with experience and expertise.
In my subsequent leadership roles including that of CEO, I would normally ask for opinions on an issue before I shared my own proposals. However, on occasion, I might first propose that we go with solution A on a certain issue. Within our culture, an employee may then share their view that solution B might be the better option. The manner in which I communicated my response would convey how welcome their opinion was, and this would affect their desire to share their opinion on this issue and on future issues.