Why leaders need to be good listeners

Slow down and take the time to think says John Paton, chairman of the Independent and Evening Standard

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Management Today

It would be an understatement to say that the schedule of a media mogul like John Paton is rather busy. The founder of what became America’s second biggest newspaper business, Digital First Media, has been at the forefront of digital transformation in the media sector for decades, and now chairs the Independent and Evening Standard newspapers.

Yet, as he explains to Management Today, being busy is no excuse for a leader to stop listening or taking the time to think deeply. “Every time I’ve experienced failure, a key component of that failure has been me not listening. I think it’s the rarest commodity for a chief executive to have the time to listen and to think. You’re always doing, as a CEO. 

“One of the benefits, and great joys, of being a chairman versus being a CEO is having the time to think and listen to people, and to really read the research. 

“I’m comfortable that a lot of the things I’ve tried haven’t worked, because we were taking a risk, but there have been times when I realised later, ‘I did hear that [concern] but I didn’t listen to it’, whatever that particular risk was. 

“So I see listening, and taking enough time to think through decisions, as crucial. I don’t mean doing the analysis – you can pay people to do analysis. I’m talking about just thinking.”

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