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Michael Steele is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, former lieutenant governor of Maryland and insightful political pundit. He was interviewed recently on David Axelrod’s podcast, The Axe Files and offered some comments about leadership his mother gave to him. Start with this:
Always be ready to lead;
Never be afraid to follow.
When your leadership is needed, nobody wants to wait for you to get it from the metaphorical storage closet, because waiting puts people into uncertainty and doubt. There are times when you have to immediately stand up and say, “THAT way.”
In contrast, there are times when the very best thing you can do is to refrain from standing up and pointing your finger. Sometimes someone in your shop has the greatest clarity, the best idea and the moral suasion to make the right things happen. That’s when your job is to get out of the way and follow. And when you do that you make it safe for your people to step up again and again.
Understand that regardless of your marvelous abilities, your key job is to draw out the very best wisdom, creativity and engagement from your people, because no one is smart enough to have all the best answers and solutions all the time. Which leads to the last point.
Steele reported that his mother told him, “Shut up and listen.” She said to listen at least twice as much as you talk. Listen because doing so builds trust and rapport. Listen as a sign of respect and caring.
Hmmm, “Listen.” What a concept!
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