Sarah Palin’s Journey to Knoxville: Leading by Listening

 Many managers do not appreciate the art of good listening. In fact, some people view listening to followers a weakness. However, not listening to wise counsel can be fatal to leaders. Former Alaska Governor and the 2008 Republican vice president candidate Sarah Palin happens to be the latest causality on this subject.

On April 21st, she found herself in U.S. District Court in Knoxville. Some managers have poor listening skills while others are just arrogant about listening to anybody. If organizations want to be successful, their managers need to understand the importance of good listening skills. Craig Hackman and Michael Johnson, authors of Leadership: A Communication Perspective, explain that the leader-follower connection has a direct impact on organizational effectiveness. This article examines the importance of leaders listening to their followers.

Many managers fail to see the unintended consequences of not listening to followers. Former Alaska Director of Boards and Commissioners Frank Bailey warned Palin about using a non-government email: “I was speaking to (Palin husband) Todd (Palin) and said, ‘You have got to get off Yahoo! It’s not secure.’” Sarah Palin failed to heed this warning from her staff. David Kernell, a University of Tennessee student at the time, gained accessed to Palin’s private email, thereby making her vulnerable. In court, it was later discovered that Palin used the Yahoo account to discuss state business.

Yet, Palin’s failure to listen is a common situation to some managers. James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, explain that the leader’s job is to keep followers focused on the vision. If managers do not listen to workers, workers will lose trust in them. Like Sarah Palin learned, leaders must be willing to listening to their workers. Leadership is about a journey. Effective leader understand that it’s important to get wise counsel. Listening to workers is just one critical component. Therefore, leaders need to act on this matter before it’s too late.

 © 2010 by Daryl D. Green

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One thought on “Sarah Palin’s Journey to Knoxville: Leading by Listening

  1. This post was very correct in describing the effects of ineffective listening by leaders. Not only will employees lose trust in their leaders but they might also begin to resent them. A manager who doesn’t listen to employees can cause them to feel unimportant which can directly relate to poor job performance and productivity. There aren’t many easier things for a leader to do which can have such an impact on the morale of his employees than simply listening to what they have to say. According to the article “Why Leadership Means Listening” by Carmine Gallo (Bloomberg Business week, Jan. 31, 2007) “listening is the one skill that separates the great from the near-great. All managers who aspire to become effective, successful leaders should certainly take some time and think carefully about how to best develop their listening skills. The sooner good listening skills are developed, the more prosperous a management career is sure to be.

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