Listening instead of yelling

The definition of a new kind of leadership constantly pops up in conversations. Older leaders don’t really dare to lead and the younger ones think, “Is there even a need for leaders in general?”

What to lead?

I had an interesting conversation with a nineteen-year-old man who had done sports throughout his entire youth. Whenever it’s about an athletic performance – he tries his best. In the cursed Cooper’s test he wasn’t the one that hid behind the locker room and started following in the last round and announced he’d ran 3100, no, he actually ran the whole way and lastly told on the cheaters.

We also discussed a couple other athletic performances where he said he’d done as agreed, even though some slipped.

Previously, I had read a writing by an important opinion leader on LinkedIn where one trait for a good leader was said to be yelling. The writing encouraged yelling to ensure that the listener would understand it’s a really important thing.

What?

The writing had been liked by 2000 smart-seeming people all over the world. Some mild counter-arguments had appeared in the comment section. I wonder if among the supporters were those who recognized the same trait and approach in themselves and for that reason were looking for acceptance for their behavior? “That’s what the others are doing too so it’s totally ok to continue in the same way.”

After this, the young athlete guy told his own experience of a good coach:

If the football match had flopped and the whole team was accompanied to the locker room by yelling, it didn’t increase motivation. The coach just confirmed what the whole team knew after the match. At the same time the coach lost his self-control or hopefully at least regretted his yelling at some point.

Instead the athlete remembered this coach’s behavior, again after a lost match, significantly better: the coach had followed the team after the flopped match to the locker room, and couldn’t say a thing. The whole team knew they had failed and shared the unspoken feeling of disappointment. The coach exited silently after 5 minutes stating only, “See you on Monday with a new spark.” Surely sharing the emotional state without words worked better than yelling with words.

Finding a coaching leadership

My intent is not to defend the culture of silence but rather coaching appropriately to the situation. Sharing feelings in silence can be coaching if the team has a close connection and trust in each other.

I have personally worked with a couple of yelling leaders and colleagues. The experiences of my colleagues and myself have been uniform: the yeller loses both face and their reliability in both that situation and in the future. Unfortunately, one intentional or unintentional yelling fit can change the impression of an admired and respected top leader into an unstable and unpredictable despot.

There cannot be a thing so important to say that the message wouldn’t get across without yelling. In addition, if the yelling is done by the leader, he has such a big influence over the ones subjected to the yelling that after the yelling no one dares to question the yeller’s dominance anymore.

Surely, at least one of the signs of a new, good leadership is #notyelling and #listening? How about a yelling-prone leader first asking, “How did that go in your own opinion?” and listening to the answers first?