Saturday, February 12, 2011

‘Good leaders have been very good listeners’

‘Good leaders have been very good listeners’
By The Post
Sat 12 Feb. 2011, 04:00 CAT

Our politicians must not assume that the masses have no understanding of what they themselves do not understand.

It often happens that the masses outstrip our politicians and are eager to advance a step and that nevertheless our politicians fail to act as leaders of the masses and tail behind certain backward elements, reflecting their views and, moreover, mistaking them for those of the broad masses.

It is therefore very important for those in the leadership of our country to learn to listen to the views and advice of the masses.

They should be prepared to take the ideas of the masses and concentrate them, then go to the masses, persevere in the ideas and carry them through, so as to form correct ideas of leadership – such is the basic method of leadership.

If our politicians insisted on leading the masses to do anything against their will, they will certainly fail.

Our politicians should not also assume that everything they themselves understand is understood by the masses of our people.

Whether the masses understand it and are ready to take action can be discovered only by listening to them and by going into their midst.

There is need for our politicians to listen attentively to the voice of the masses.

To link oneself with the masses, one must act in accordance with the needs and wishes of the masses.

All work done for the masses must start from their needs and not from the desire of any individual, however well-intentioned.

The right policy is one that conforms to the demands of the masses. It is important for our politicians to rely on the masses, on everybody’s taking a hand, and avoid reliance on a few persons issuing orders.

Our politicians should never pretend to know what they don’t know. They should not feel ashamed to ask and learn from the masses.

And they should listen carefully to the views of the masses. It is said that one should be a pupil before one becomes a teacher.

It is wise to know the position of the masses, to learn from them before one starts issuing orders.

What the masses say may or may not be correct; after hearing it, our politicians must analyse it.

They must heed the correct views of the masses and act upon them.

They should also listen to the mistaken views of the masses; it is wrong not to listen to them at all.

Such views, however, are not to be acted upon but to be criticised.

The supreme test of the words and deeds of a politician is whether they conform with the highest interests and enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of our people.

And this calls for our politicians to have largeness of mind. At no time and in no circumstances should they place their personal interests first; they should subordinate them to the interests of the nation and of the masses.

They must be ready at all times to stand up for the truth, because the truth is in the interest of the masses; they must be ready at all times to correct their mistakes, because mistakes are against the interests of the people.

They should set an example in being practical as well as far-sighted. For only by being practical can they fulfill their tasks efficiently, effectively and in an orderly manner.

And only far-sightedness can prevent them from losing their bearings in the march forward.

A leader must never be opinionated or domineering, thinking that he is good in everything while others are good in nothing; he must never brag or boast and lord it over others. Our politicians must learn to listen attentively to the views of people outside their political parties and let them have their say. If what they say is right, they ought to welcome it, and they should learn from their strong points; if it is wrong, they should learn to finish what they are saying and then patiently explain things to them.

We can have all the good structures required for the governance of our country but these by themselves will not guarantee us good leadership.

Good leadership will be achieved, not by the formalities of structures, but by the integrity, humaneness, accommodation, tolerance and ability to listen of the individual leader.

It is said that the ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people and that stiff-neckedness, hotheads and cold hearts never solved anything.

We are saying all this to agree with the observations made by Dr Euston Chiputa, president of the University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union, on the need for our leaders to find time to listen to advice and to the views of our people.

It is generally accepted that good leaders have been very good listeners. But as Dr Chiputa observes, it is not everything people say that must be implemented.

But again, it is not everything people say that should not be listened to or that should not be implemented.

Truly, the right to be heard does not mean the right to be taken seriously.

But it is very important for leaders to always mull over things and listen to the concerns and feelings of the masses because ultimately, this is where real power lies – real power lies with the masses.

It is therefore important to listen to the concerns being raised by the masses. It doesn’t profit one anything to ignore the voice of the masses and pretend all is well. It doesn’t equally pay to suppress the views and feelings of the masses.

It is such practices that lead to what we are today witnessing in Egypt.

It is such practices that led to what we saw in Mongu a fortnight or so ago. When the masses speak, the leaders should always listen.

This is so because the masses are the masters; are the ones who call the shots.

There is no servant who can survive for long without listening to the voice, concerns and wishes of the master.

It is said that leaders lead, but in the end, the people govern. To govern is to communicate.

And it is therefore not possible to govern effectively, efficiently and in an orderly way without being able to listen.

“People who listen when they are corrected will live, but those who will not admit that they are wrong are in danger” (Proverbs 10:17); “Conceited people do not like to be corrected; they never ask for advice from those who are wise” (Proverbs 15:12);

“Get all the advice you can, and you will succeed; without it, you will fail” (Proverbs 15:22);

“If you pay attention when you are corrected, you are wise. If you refuse to learn, you are hurting yourself. If you accept correction, you will become wiser” (Proverbs 15:31-32).

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