Highly effective leaders speak last, and why you need to do so

3 MINS READ

Highly effective leaders speak last, and why you need to do so

One of the very tragedies of leadership in our time is the idea that “What we do does not matter.” In fact, what we do; what we say every day, and how we say it matters a lot. All too often, we get a chance to put our leadership competence to test through involvement in meetings and engagement with other people. In the process, many individuals commit the greatest leadership sin, in my opinion, of speaking before thinking. I am not suggesting that people should not make contributions at meetings. However, our contributions need to be constructive. The point I am making is that effective leaders speak last.

As I have conversations with entrepreneurs, CEOs, and senior corporate executives regularly, I come in contact with the good and bad sides of leadership often. It is easy to identify, for example, you can tell a good or bad leader by simply observing how he or she speaks. Highly effective leaders speak last, and it takes little or no effort on their part to demonstrate it. 

A few days ago, I was part of a delegation that met with electricity suppliers in my community. The meeting was to protest the arbitrary billing that leaves our residents paying for more energy than they consume. So, the meeting commenced with the head of the delegation explaining our people’s frustrations, and suggesting a lower tariff. Suddenly, the manager cut in saying: “I am sorry Sir, we do not have a supply for that amount. If you insist on paying that amount, I will de-energize your community.”

 

Why Effective Leaders Speak Last

1. It helps you learn from others

Having the discipline to speak last has great virtue in leadership. First of all, it gives a broader view of other peoples’ perspectives and prepares the leader to respond with hindsight and confidence. Why not? Because you have already heard what everyone had to say, and you kind of want to summarize all.

It can be tempting to speak first, especially in cultures where it feels like speaking first is the leaders’ priority. But rather than interrupt others, pay attention to what they said, and ask questions to clarify your understanding. Even after the person has finished speaking, allow other people in the room to contribute on the matter. Doing so deepens the conversation and broadens your own knowledge and understanding of the subject matter with other peoples’ viewpoints.

 

2. People perceive you as respectful

Another reason you need to consider speaking last from today is that it portrays you as a respectful leader. Imagine the impression the manager’s behaviour painted in our minds at the electricity office? You see, many people including your employees and subordinates do not often get respected, or to a greater extent, they feel so. The ability to hold your opinion until other people finish speaking gives a sense that they have been heard. It makes them feel their opinions have been respected, and they leave the room feeling they have contributed.

Entrepreneurs need to speak last, also

The experience is pretty much the same with entrepreneurs and small business owners. Many of them dominate their sales conversations in an attempt to make a quick sale. They talk too much to impress, and sometimes coarse them to buy. As a result, they overwhelm their prospects with irrelevant details. Rather than pay greater attention to the needs of the prospects and create value to them, they jump too quickly into why their products or services are the best.

You can change your leadership dynamics if you start practicing to speak last from today. It sounds so easy to do, but in reality, it is not. It requires the discipline of constant practicing, which you can do, anyway.

3 MINS READ

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Lee Tilbury
Creative Director, Bluemarks Creative Studio, Cambridge, UK.


Author: Nkem Mpamah
Nkem Mpamah is Nigeria's #1 business coach, leadership and strategy consultant for the services industry. Nkem coaches successful entrepreneurs to improve performance, increase competitiveness, and expand the freedoms of entrepreneurship. He is the founder of Cognition Global Concepts, and creator of the The Strategic Growth Program." He is author of "The ART of Achievement and Fulfillment", and "The Entrepreneur".

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