What is the job of an executive?
Is it to make the decisions? Tell others what to do? Hire and fire, deciding who gets to do what?
Is it to be the captain of the ship? The pilot of the plane? How about the navigator? Or the lead communicator?
Is it the executive’s job to have all the right answers?
It’s none of these and it’s all of these. It’s the job of the executive to ensure the success of all those things. It’s to ensure the best possible “execution” of whatever needs to happen. To enable… facilitate… unleash… organize… discover… maximize… liberate… EXECUTION.
Even before ensuring execution, it’s the job of the executive to understand what needs to be executed.
The executive’s job is not to have all the answers, but to hear the answers. To listen so well as to understand and synthesize all the incoming data, including – especially – the perspectives and opinions of others. To continually reflect back what they’re hearing and continue listening to how that affects the incoming data. To sense when a decision or action must be taken, and making it happen, or understanding that there’s more listening to be done first.
It requires being the best listener and synthesizer. It requires vulnerability to set aside one’s own perspective and opinion in order to effectively hear it from others. It requires humility to consider perspectives that conflict with your own. And it requires courage to put your trust in others, rather than insist only on your own perspective.
It doesn’t require being the smartest person in the room. In fact, an executive who is the smartest person in the room has failed at the most important part of their job – finding the best and most useful voices to listen to.
Listen to what the business environment is saying. Listen to what the organization is saying. Listen to what the employees, customers, shareholders, and partners are saying. Listen to what the data is saying.
Lastly, and most importantly, listen to what your heart is saying. The job of the executive is to listen and then lead from the heart.