This is Why Great Leaders Speak Last
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This is Why Great Leaders Speak Last

This is Why Great Leaders Speak Last

Have you ever been in a meeting where as soon as the most senior leader in the room starts to share what they think, the brainstorming and volleying of ideas cease? The conversation becomes completely reoriented around their thoughts. Most leaders, including me, feel like it is our job to state the challenge or opportunity and offer some solutions, then ask what the rest of the team thinks. However, this leads to a situation called groupthink, which is the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility. This is why great leaders speak last.

A true leader in a group is rarely the person who talks the most. It is not the one on a power trip. It is the person who listens the best. Effective leaders know that active listening is more than hearing what is said. It is noticing what isn’t said. It is being aware of facial expressions and body language. Acknowledging varying personality types, inviting dissenting views, and recognizing vocal people while also amplifying the voices of quieter types are acts of transformational leadership.

Creating Space For All To Be Heard

When it comes to meetings, leadership expert and author Simon Sinek has great advice for leaders. “The best leaders speak last. The skill to hold your opinions till everyone else has spoken does two things: One, it gives everyone else the feeling they have been heard. It makes everyone else feel that they have contributed. And two, you get the benefit of hearing what everyone else has to think before you render your opinion.”

When you wait to hear what your team is going to say, you’re giving its individual members a chance to grow into leaders who can feel comfortable sharing their opinions with each other. It builds team morale and builds more productive discussions because studies have proven that the best teams choose conflict over cohesion and more frequently debate with each other. When you take on the leadership challenge of speaking last it can encourage your team members to challenge each other’s ideas in the most constructive ways.

In her blog, Why great leaders speak last, Luba Koziy shares a great tip on how leaders can engage collaboration from their teams in meetings. “First, don’t drop an anchor. A group tends to latch onto the first thing said in a meeting. That’s one reason the outspoken individual’s comment was so persuasive — it created an anchor that the rest of the conversation circled around.” She notes that the validity of this verbal anchor isn’t as important as it is ‘dropped’ first. “What follows an anchor is a series of adjustments: Each subsequent comment inevitably relates to the anchor comment, until everyone reaches a compromised solution. This is also known as the ‘anchoring and adjustment’ mental heuristic.”

When the leader speaks last, it shows that they value the opinions and ideas of their team members. It demonstrates their willingness to listen and consider everyone’s input before making a final decision. A leader offering emotional intelligence and trust to their team members typically gains greater influence with them–arguably one of the most important aspects of leadership–in the most transparent and authentic way.

John R. DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or info@thedijuliusgroup.com.

Published: May 16th, 2023

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