When Leaders Don’t Listen

What happens when leaders don’t listen?

Unfortunately, I know.

Frustration results. Restlessness results. Even anger can result. Resentment can fester. Emotions can run high. Communications falter as concerns seem to fall on deaf ears.

Essentially, you put your organization at risk for loosing good people, people who cared enough to speak up, people who were invested in the organization before they saw how it worked or could not effect the change they wanted or, even, were hired to make. Sometimes, “these people” – the one’s who speak up and speak out come to have a reputation of being hard to work with or a trouble maker or a whiner or worse, not a “team” player.

The “good” loyal and even once optimistic employee or stakeholder will push these feelings down and continue to do so until they cannot be pent up any longer. Is this what we will see tomorrow, on election day? Will results point to needed change or more of the same?

When you are considered a leader – of anything – a small group, a company, a school, a non-profit, or even a country – do you listen to your employees, stakeholders, constituents, and/or advisors or experts? Do you allow them to say what they know – in the area in which they have subject matter expertise? If not, you aren’t listening. If you go through the motions of asking for advice, do you take it? Do you act on suggestions or concerns? If not, you might not be listening. Maybe, asking for help or advice was just for show.

I can think of several examples from my own life when leaders I knew and spoke to about concerns did not listen. A few are recent examples, occurring in the last few years. One is an example from over ten years ago. All were hard to deal with. Most of my examples come from the educational sector. One comes from a recent work experience. And, then there’s the example we all get to weigh in on tomorrow – election day.

What happens when leaders don’t listen? Nothing. That’s what. Things stay the same.

True change takes time. Any mature adult can speak to that sentiment and probably back it up with examples from their own experience. But, when concerns are ignored or brushed aside or attributed to a “hard to work with individual” change that is needed might not come at all.

Leaders are left in power and will continue to ignore signs that the organization is in trouble. Complacency and maintaining the status quo becomes the easy road to travel. When you want change, try to advocate for change, and work for change but do not have support, it becomes easy to just glide along with those less invested. Still, one is on the lookout for a listening ear, a question that might indicate interest in what you have to say, or any sign a leader is willing to consider all sides of an issue or concern. Those are the leaders we want, – in education, in healthcare, in politics, and even in our small groups and non-profit organizations. We want (and, more importantly, need) leaders that will start to listen. When you listen you show respect and respect definitely needs to be restored for so many.

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