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Great Leaders Seek to Clarify and Understand the Concerns and Questions of Those They Lead

Senior leaders and executives often realize that they are not in the best position to identify and know all the challenges involved in strategy execution. Unfortunately, too many leaders have mindsets and fears of inadequacies that prevent them readily admitting this. As such they do not solicit ideas and inputs from others, nor do they appear willingly receptive to unsolicited ideas and inputs.

As a result, in far too many organizations there is a culture of reluctance within the lower leadership ranks to raise concerns and red flags with more senior colleagues or more experienced team members. This is even more prevalent when team members are from hierarchical cultures such as those found in North Asia, China, parts of Latin America, and Eastern Europe.

Leaders can only change this culture of reluctance by being seen as open to suggestions, questions, and even push-back by their followers and peers. Only a walk the talk solution will result in the desired culture change, and it will not happen overnight.

Great leaders devote a significant amount of energy and time to clarifying and understanding the perspectives, ideas, concerns, and questions of others (particularly of those that they lead). Additionally, great leaders do not see clarification questions from team members, peers, or others as a sign of push-back or dissension. In fact, they appreciate such questions and inputs, knowing full well that open and honest dialogues are a key builder of trust.

Likewise, great leaders will also demonstrate confidence and courage when providing feedback to their own bosses and other senior leaders. They also assert their right to express their viewpoints, concerns, and questions in a professional manner.

This is particularly important for mid-level leaders tasked with implementing the strategies handed down from above. Mid-level leaders need to become strong advocates for doing what is right (and what is truly achievable) by advising senior leaders on what is required to successfully implement a strategic plan. Otherwise, as seen in the previous chapter, strategic plans are more likely to fail to meet stated objectives and results.

Admittedly, advocating for what is right is not always easy to do. It is, however, a key differentiator between a good manager and a great leader.

This is especially true when trust, openness, and honesty have not been mutually established between leaders operating at different levels within an organization. However, it is not impossible to do so.

This article is excerpted from my book Great Leadership Words of Wisdom, which is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats and has over 1000 quotes on leadership from global business leaders, statesmen, athletes, coaches, sages, and philosophers.

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