Listening Leadership: Shirley Ann Jackson

In yesterday's Corner Office interview in the New York Times, Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said some remarkable things. To paraphrase, she said no one is the fount of all knowledge and that it is important to listen carefully. You may think this advice is common sense, but such honesty is too rare when it comes to people in leadership positions, who often succumb to the pressure that they must know all, know better, and do so at all times. 

As advocates for the importance of listening, we were especially impressed with Ms. Jackson's answer to the the question "What advice do you often give when you’re coaching managers?" She said:

"It’s important to listen carefully, because it helps you understand the other person, and you cannot expect to really reach them if you do not understand. Listening can also help you make better decisions because nobody is the fount of all knowledge.

The second is empathy. The world is complex, and people come from various backgrounds. I have my own sensitivities based on how I grew up. Sometimes I let them get the better of me, but I learned an important lesson early on."

This is great advice that benefits all of us, no matter our role.

You can read the full interview here: Link to NYT article