When many people think of leaders, they think often think of someone who tells other people what to do. Although it’s true that leaders are often responsible for making the tough decisions and guiding their people down the right path, effective leaders should spend more time listening than talking and concentrate on providing their people with the support they need to get the job done. In order to do all that, they need to be able to keep an open mind.
Those who are placed in leadership positions are often chosen because of their experience and history of success, but they’re still just one person. A leader who keeps an open mind and asks their team members for to contribute ideas gains the advantage of, not just their experience, but the combined years of experience of their whole team.
No one person has all the answers and every good leader is aware of this fact. Socrates is famously quoted as saying, “I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.” Of course leaders should certainly know a great deal, but they should also be able to recognize their limitations and seek answers from their team that are likely to be different from (and quite possibly better than) any answer the leader could come up with on their own.
Effective leaders also know that, just because they come up with a solution to a problem, does not necessarily mean they came up with the best solution. Asking their team for their ideas creates a larger pool of possibilities, and the more options there are to choose from, the better the solution that gets put into action is likely to be. By keeping an open mind and understanding that the solutions they came up with alone might not necessarily be the best options, leaders are more likely to find and choose the best solution when they solicit ideas from their team members.
Maintaining an open mind is also a great way for leaders to ensure the respect and loyalty of the team members. Workers who feel their ideas are valued and have been heard are likely to be much happier in the workforce than those who feel like they’ve just been steamrolled by their leader or another coworker. This holds true even when the leader decides to pursue someone else’s idea or another path altogether. Just knowing their advice was requested and heard leads to happier workers, which promotes a happier and more productive workplace.
Even better is when the entire team comes up with a solution together. There are a number of ways leaders can do this and generate creativity among the team members as well as the leader. When teams are given a chance to work like this, everyone has an opportunity to contribute to the decision regarding which path they should take next.
Throughout history, the most influential leaders all over the world, from monarchs to generals, have had trusted advisors that they turned to before making important decisions. It was just one of the secrets to their success and continues to be a vital tool for anyone in a leadership position.