The Leader’s Secret Weapon 2021-02-04T07:23:13-05:00

The Leader’s Secret Weapon

In 1962, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote a song that started with these lyrics: “Listen.  Do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell?”

Today I want to share a leader’s secret with you, and I encourage you to tell as many people as possible.

The leader’s secret weapon, regardless of the size of his or her organization, is a simple skill which few people truly master during the arc of their careers:


Very few of us have ever taken classes or courses in listening. Fortunately, I was able to do so several decades ago when I studied to be a volunteer at the Montgomery County Community Crisis Center.

It was one of the most challenging courses I’ve ever taken. Each Tuesday evening at midnight, after I completed a four-hour shift on the crisis center phones spent almost entirely just listening, I was exhausted.

Good listening is hard work, but it serves leaders so well.

The best listening is certainly not the pretend listening I sometimes do with my wife Liz.  It is not even attentive listening that we sometimes use with our team members.

It is deep listening – when we step out of our own shoes and put on the other’s shoes.

Instead of listening from our own perspective, we listen from the point of view of the person doing the talking.

Every single person with whom we live or work wants to be heard. It is the leader’s job to make time and room for that kind of listening so the other person feels understood.

Remember this quote from Dr. Ralph Roughton:

“When I ask you to listen to me, and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me, and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as it may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen, not talk to or do, just hear me.”