Leadership & Listening

Yesterday morning, listening to Morning Edition, host Rachel Martin was interviewing historian, Jeffrey Engel. Engel is with the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Mr. Engel shared this insight into the character and leadership style of President George H W Bush: “… from time to time, President Bush, if he had a few moments on his calendar, would call up a foreign leader, whether in Africa, whether in Asia, whether in – somewhere else, and just ask them, what’s going on in your world? What do you think is important? And just listen.”

“And just listen.” Wow.

Think about that in the context of today’s political climate in which hostile tweets and angry criticism fill the air. President Bush has been described again and again in the last few days as a man of humility. It takes humility to listen deeply to another person. Humility considers that the other person knows something, sees something, that you don’t. Humility realizes that one’s own perspective is limited and partial. Humility knows that leadership requires building relationships and managing a broad spectrum of gifts and attributes.

Many years ago a pastor colleague said, “Leadership doesn’t mean having all the answers. Leadership is about asking the questions.”

George H W Bush left us a legacy and an example of the kind of leadership our country, our world, our communities need in these days of partisan division — the gift of listening.

Thank you, Mr. Bush.