(Concluded from Part 1, above.)
The CEO as Listener
I suggest the creation of a new role, based on a new model of leadership, designed to stabilize matters and provide a source of confidence to the leader who hasn’t quite made the complete jump yet.
I suggest the creation of a new model of “CEO.” My model is the “CEO as Listener,” the Nova CEO.
The Nova CEO provides a listening space for presidents who find something missing in their initiation and accomplishment of their ideas. That something turns out to be someone who will give the word, give the command.
Seeking a listening from a CEO is a transitional measure for one who hasn’t fully discovered and uncovered that the heart is the ultimate source of their self-confidence, rather than someone in the outside world. Or hasn’t operationalized that discovery yet.
It’s a temporary, transitional role for the one who offers the service as well.
I’ve now played this role with a very small number of people over stretches of time and I know it works.
What is Listening?
Definitions first. What is “listening”?
Listening, in my books, is an open reception (drawing on all the senses) of another’s communication, an imaginative recreation of what that experience must have been like, a being with and experiencing whatever arises as a result of it (feelings, conclusions, decisions) , and a feeding back, if necessary or advisable, of what was received, what it felt like, etc.
Do this (or come close) and you’re listening, according to me.
How It Works
I think of being a listener as providing a second self. The listener sees things from the speaker’s point of view and feeds back what that feels like.
When I play the role, the president of a company comes to me and reports a situation that needs handling. I listen until they’re finished. I may ask for more details if I see they’re still not finished but visibly upset by something.
But I won’t try to distract them or redirect them. My job is to listen until they’re complete, without judgment or distraction.
Often in the course of doing so, the president comes upon the answer to many if not most of their own questions.
But if not, when they’re done, I ask them what they recommend. They tell me. I tell them to do it and arrange a date for them to report back.
That’s it. Job done. All they needed was someone to listen to them, hear their recommendation, and then tell them to do what they themselves recommended. They needed someone to give the command.
What they do as accomplished Seconds-in-Command, they’re fully able to do. They don’t need our help there. All they need is the word from above, to have confidence in what they’re doing.
Eventually they’ll find their own internal confidence, their own GPS. Or, if they’ve found it, they’ll have brought it into this area of their lives.
Advice Not Needed or Wanted
The job of the new CEO does not include giving advice. It doesn’t preclude it either, in a few, usually urgent situations.
Otherwise, listening is in a different city to advising. You’re in one city or the other. When we advise, we leave listening. We go through steps in our mind: We identify the problem, look inside for advice, find it, look for the opportunity to deliver it. All this time is spent outside listening. By now we can’t possibly recover where we left off. We are not listening, except to ourself.
(I’ve made more of the don’t’s into a separate note, here: https://goldenageofgaia.com/2017/04/15/some-of-the-donts-in-listening/)
If we look very, very closely, we’ll find that the impulse to advise is born of the need to feel self-important. We want to feel as if we’ve contributed, as if we matter, and we’re using the occasion to prove it.
The speaker sees we’ve withdrawn our attention, gone off somewhere (spaced out), and are no longer listening. They’re on their own now. Abandoned again or whatever the vasana is that our lack of attention triggers in them. No one ever listens to me. Etc. And they leave demoralized.
What undermines our successful performance as a Nova CEO is this very impulse to feel self-important. That’s the worm in the apple, more times than not. When I see people acting that way with me, I want to say to them: “Hey, I’m over here. I need you right now.”
So if our intervention is designed, no matter how subtly, to prove what a good boy we are, don’t go with it. Drop it. It’s not in our job description as Nova CEOs.
Just be an open space that hears the other person and occasionally feeds back your understanding.
Here’s another reason to offer this service.
Listening is the best way to be there for that other person without interfering with the exercise of their sovereign abilities and the expansion of their self-confidence.
The presidents may not have confidence in themselves at the time they approach you (which is why they approach you) but you have confidence in them. They expand into the space created by your confidence in them. Confidence becomes contagious until they discover its source, in their own hearts, the universal dispenser of all good things.
As they progressively get that confidence comes from within, progressively let go, yourself. Once their confidence is flowing from within, cut them loose. Let them fly.
Just as using you was a transitional measure for them, so is it only a temporary role for you. A successful Nova CEO can now let go of the dove.
Congratulations. You reached a successful conclusion on that one. Imagine the whole sequence. Imagination is creative thought, more and more for us.
The sharper are the CEO’s listening skills – and listening is a skill – the better able they are to perform as this new model is envisaged.
So, job description: A good listener with no self-importance who can hear a would-be leader completely and empower them to do exactly what they recommend, until their own self-confidence kicks in, at which point the CEO will be no longer needed.
Since these matters have a habit of unpacking themselves, you can expect me to expand what I said here, on another occasion, into a new model of leadership generally: The Leader as Listener.