Effective Leadership Starts by Walking in Another Person’s ShoesThe chairman and CEO of Loews Hotel spent a week working the front desk and carrying luggage for the reality show Down the Ladder. Jon Tisch’s eye-opening experience led to some significant changes in policy for the multimillion-dollar luxury hotel chain.

By the end of the week, Tisch had a new awareness of and respect for the tough work his employees do every day. As reported by Sanyin Siang, executive director of the Coach K Center on Leadership and a contributor to the Huffington Post, “His employees now know and feel that [Tisch] gets it and that he gets them.”

In business as in life, it’s a great challenge for all of us to see things from someone else’s point of view, but for effective leadership, you need to understand how another person sees the world and lead from there.

When you walk in another person’s shoes, great things can happen.

Effective Leadership: Walk in Another Person’s Shoes

You build trust. The connection between leader and followers grows stronger. “Leaders get a feel for the language and analogies that would resonate better with followers,” Siang notes.

You provide better feedback. When employees feel the CEO understands what they do, it’s easier for them to accept criticism that improves their performance. Also, there’s less of the kind of criticism that fails to account for the realities of an employee’s workload.

As Siang points out, “It’s much easier to criticize and point out the things that are wrong when there isn’t a full sense of the obstacles that might be in the way.”

You strengthen collaboration. Following the experience of walking in that other person’s shoes, there’s a much greater sense among both leader and employees that we’re all in this together. Because “leaders and followers can better see the contribution that each brings,” it’s possible to seize on opportunities “beyond each other’s limited understanding.”

Of course, most CEOs and business owners don’t have the time to literally assume the job duties of their employees, but there are ways that leaders can gain a deeper understanding of their employees’ perspectives and actions:

The best teachers ask questions, listen carefully to the answers and “then relay the lesson … in a way that is tailored to the students’ frame of reference.”

That’s what Jon Tisch has done. As Siang reports, his personal experience led to the creation of a new Loews Hotels policy. For one day every year, “his executives need to take on the jobs of their employees.”

How can you learn to walk in your employees’ shoes?

Art of ListeningThe most successful business leaders understand the art of listening is key to effective leadership. It is an art that can be acquired and developed, but only if you are willing to commit time and resources to doing it well.

So says Jim Sniechowski, Ph.D., a contributor to LinkedIn Today. Becoming a “really, really good listener” starts with setting your own ego aside: “Not deny it. Not suppress it. But set it aside; bracket it, so to speak,” so you can truly bring the other person “into full view."

Sniechowski offers what he calls “four essentials” that lead to the art of listening.

The Art of Listening

  1. The other person is not you. It is important to recognize that even if you and the other person share a common social and economic status, even the same education and experience, “that’s not enough to guarantee listening deeply, because there will always be points of divergence.”  The other person “doesn’t operate from the same assumptions as you do.” If you disregard this insight, your interaction with this other person “can branch off in unexpected and startling ways that can lead to confusion, if not irritation and even rage.”
  2. Be curious.  “Deep listening” operates on the presumption you are genuinely curious about the other person and what makes him or her tick. When you do it right, “it returns a treasure of understanding that enhances the familiarity and the closeness of your relationship.”
  3. A person's perspective is as important to them as yours is to you. Hard to imagine, right? Understanding this basic principle frees you from the tendency we all have of dismissing someone else’s point of view when it is not aligned with what we think and believe. “This doesn’t mean you have to agree or even want to remain connected,” Sniechowski contends. “But you won’t fall into the trap of characterizing them from your own point of view.”
  4. Listen for non-conscious presuppositions and assumptions. What is going on beneath the surface is just as important as what is being said. “We all express from the unconscious dimension of our minds. That’s unavoidable.” This is where assumptions and presuppositions live, and why they get expressed as “slips of the tongue, inconsistencies, even contradictions.”

After expressing yourself on a particular point, have you ever followed up by saying, “I didn’t really mean that.”?

Sniechowski says, you really did mean it.

The passion with which you delivered your statement is a clue to the depth of your conviction.

Conviction is rooted in the unconscious and what is true for you is equally true for the other person.

By integrating and practicing what Sniechowski calls “these listening strategies,” you will become not only a good listener, you will have the art of listening down, which makes you a more effective leader.

The practice will “open up other people to you in ways that will sometimes prove breathtaking.”

How do you practice the art of listening?


leadershipGreat leadership is something to which many business professionals aspire, and it’s an ongoing process to make the shift from being a competent leader to a truly remarkable leader.

In an Inc.com post, Peter Economy, author of The Management Bible, discusses nine traits that great leaders have all possessed. (more…)

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