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Why Leaders Don’t Listen | Porque los lideres no escuchan

noviembre 21, 2011

Porque los lideres no escuchan?

People in power tend to discount the advice of others, which can lead to business and economic downturns. HR leaders need to ensure that emerging — and current — leaders understand the importance of listening. They also need to focus some attention on making sure that advisers to organizational leaders are capable of offering substantive analysis. 
By David Shadovitz

If you sometimes get a sense business leaders aren’t really listening to what others have to say, it could be because they aren’t.

 A recent study, “The Detrimental Effects of Power on Confidence, Advice Taking, and Accuracy,” reveals that people in power are less likely to heed the advice of others.

 The researchers say this tendency frequently leads to poor decision-making.

 In a paper appearing in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, the researchers write that “power elevates confidence and exacerbates the already strong tendency for individuals to overweight their own initial judgments and insufficiently incorporate the input of others.”

 “Power can lead people to be less open to factual advice, even when that advice can help achieve accuracy objectives and improve performance,” they write. The findings are based on survey data from more than 200 managers.

 Elizabeth Wolfe Morrison, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and one of the study’s authors, says the findings demonstrate that “people in power appear to be falling prey to their overconfidence.”

 Kevin Cashman, a senior partner with Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting in Minneapolis, says he isn’t surprised by the study’s conclusions, though he finds them disturbing.

 Cashman says his own research found that “listening” enables leaders to make better-informed decisions.

 “We found that top leaders have two paradoxical behaviors,” Cashman says. “One is high level of confidence. The other is [a high degree] of humility.”

 Leaders who lack humility, he says, aren’t able to obtain the information needed to make informed decisions.

 Thus, Cashman says, HR leaders need to ensure that various systems, such as recruiting, development and succession planning, aren’t overweighted on the confidence scale but underweighted when it comes to humility.

 “There’s a real tendency for companies not to pay attention to [the latter],” he says.

 Many business and economic disasters can be “traced back to leaders who had high confidence and high competence, but low humility,” Cashman says. This leads to “bright, focused, confident leaders who end up doing devastating things to their organizations and to the economy.”

 Ellen Van Velsor, a senior fellow with the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C., agrees overconfidence probably leads those in power to listen less. But she also believes people need to remember it’s a two-way street.

 On one level, Van Velso says, you could look at the findings and say that people in power don’t listen. But “another way to look at it,” she adds, is that they’re not getting the necessary information and feedback, at least to the extent people at lower levels do.”

 Wherever the burden lies, Morrison believes companies need to begin to pay greater attention to the issue. “My sense is this isn’t something that’s on many companies’ radar screens,” she says.


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