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When leaders like Eric Cantor stop listening

I find it is interesting how much people in leadership positions talk.

In order to lead, one must understand the inhibitions, fears, goals and dreams of those in his or her charge. It is impossible to understand and grasp these imperatives when all one does is talk. Fifty-percent of communication is listening, which is easily the most important half.

With Congress’s approval rating below 20% and President Obama’s around 40%, one would wish that the so-called leaders in Washington would recognize the value in just shutting up every once in a while. 

The person asking the questions controls the direction of the conversation, is gathering needed information, and is, in fact, leading the conversation. By simply listening, a true leader can help to advance the dreams and goals of those he seeks to lead as well as quell their fears. This is how a true leader actually serves the subordinate.

In turn, the listener will recognize the effort by the leader, realize it can advance them, and they will follow. In essence, through listening and serving, one leads.

With Congress’s approval rating below 20% and President Obama’s around 40%, one would wish that the so-called leaders in Washington would recognize the value in just shutting up every once in a while. 

Ideally, they should listen to those of us living in the country that they govern, those who are trying to run businesses and raise families. Our leaders have long since lost touch with trying to understand the inhibitions, fears, dreams, and goals of those they serve.

One needs to look no further for a perfect example than Eric Cantor. He stopped listening to his constituents, lost touch and thus could no longer lead them. 

He forgot that he was elected to serve, not to be a Beltway elitist with his own interests at heart. He spent Primary Day meeting with major donors and lobbyists at a Starbucks. 

His loss wasn’t about immigration or any other political issue, as most pundits would have you believe. He forgot that his job was to listen and serve the people that elected him, and now he’s paid the price.

It’s unlikely that anyone in Washington will simply just listen to the people, let alone, to each other in order to serve our nation and truly lead. But I remain so very optimistic because examples like Eric Cantor might just serve as a badly needed wake up call that we all need to shut up for a minute and listen. By doing so, the actions of our own followers will most certainly change, whether it be our family members, co-workers or others in the community. From my vantage point, this is “change” we all can really believe in.

Bill Courtney is the star and subject of the Oscar-winning film, “Undefeated,” and author of the new book, “Against the Grain.”