Leaders behave too much like old-fashioned radios that can only broadcast. But they should behave more like interactive iPhones where sending and receiving take place on an easy to use platform.
Leaders broadcast a lot and they should. It is crucial that they broadcast the vision of their organization over and over again. Leaders can never assume that followers have really grasped the vision. Even when they tell their story the 100th time and they think people will be fed up, it will turn out that the message has been new for some of them.
I recently attended a top management meeting of an international company and the CEO spelled out his vision – again. He challenged the managers to explain the vision to him in the way they would to their own people. Some of them didn’t know the exact wording or used a different order of the vision elements. The CEO wasn’t satisfied until all participants of the meeting could repeat the elements of the vision in the same order and in the same words. He said he was convinced that any changes would lead to confusion about the vision within the company; employees would perceive a lack of alignment. Although it felt at times like being in primary school, I think the CEO is absolutely right that all senior executives in an organization need to be on exactly the same page when the vision is concerned. No room for creativity there.
There is a psychological side to all this broadcasting. CEOs and other senior managers are used to being listened to. It has become normal for them to be the focus of everyone’s attention. That can be addictive. If everywhere you come people turn to you to hear your wise words, you may start to believe that every word you utter is a pearl of wisdom. If a CEO starts to believe himself that he is great, alarm bells should go off.
Leaders can become so used to broadcasting that they forget to receive. That would be a shame because listening is one of the most important but also one of the most underestimated behaviors for leaders. Leaders should listen to their direct reports, clients, industry peers and don’t forget their spouses and children. And not only listen to what they say, but even more so to what they intend to say. Followers will not always be completely honest with their bosses. That makes it even more important to listen to what might have been said and not only to what is being said. It means really turning your attention to the other person, which might be difficult if you always are the center of everyone else’s attention.
That is why leaders should be more like iPhones. Not only sending but also receiving in an easy to use way. Followers should be able to communicate with them without reading any manual. Interactivity should be key for every leader. If leaders act in this way, they will be valued by all parties concerned. Just like iPhones.