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A Butt-Kicking Project to Overcome the Drain of Talkative Leadership

You talk to solve problems, but what if your talking IS the problem?

You talk to help, but what if your talking makes people feel helpless?


I asked a group, “What’s a healthy ratio of listening to talking for wisdom?” The range went from 90:10 to 70:30. (Personally, I was thinking 50:50, which seemed way off base after hearing their responses.)

Choosing stupid:

No one gets up in the morning with the goal of choosing stupid, but stupid seems smart sometimes. That’s why smart people do stupid things.

Self-justification for talkative leadership:

  1. You need to give direction.
  2. You talk because you “know” the answer.
  3. Talking is controlling.
  4. You think talking is convincing.  But what if listening is essential to influence?
  5. Listening takes too long.

Leaders who monopolize conversations poison their own well.

When you steal people’s voice, you lower their belief in you, themselves, and the mission of your organization.

Teams without a voice languish.

What’s one recurring complaint of teams? “The people upstairs don’t listen.”

The negative impact of talkative leadership:

#1. Devaluation.

Blathering leaders make themselves seem important and others insignificant. When team members can’t get a word in edgewise, you tell them your words are more important than theirs.

#2. Demotivation.

Don’t expect to motivate people you devalue.

#3. Frustration.

A frustrated team diverts energy from the mission.

It’s frustrating to talk to leaders who don’t listen.

Teams have more available energy when they don’t expend energy on trying to be heard.


At the end of a meeting, ask each person to rate your listening to speaking ratio.

Hand out 3 X 5 cards and ask two questions. (No names.)

  1. What percentage of the time was I really listening? (Silence is helpful, but doesn’t count.)
  2. What percentage of the time was I talking?

(The total should add up to 100%.)

How would you lead if you were literally losing your ability to speak?

Bonus: Kevin Hancock, the leader of one of America’s oldest companies, developed spasmodic dysphonia – speaking became difficult. He learned to be a leader who talks less and listens more.

Check out Kevin’s new book, “The Seventh Power.”

Kevin Hancock in his own words. (2:52)


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