Effective Leaders Listen

Mike Pompeo’s memoir Never Give an Inch, reads a bit like a campaign book, you know, that obligatory volume presidential candidates feel the need to publish. I’ve read quite a few of these. Some are great, like Chris Christie’s. Some are lousy like George W. Bush’s. I count Pompeo’s as one of the better.

Ultimately it was a campaign book without a campaign. Pompeo decided not to run. That takes more honor and love of country than running. Had more Republican presidential candidates done that in 2016, the GOP would not have nominated a buffoon. The vote of real Republicans that year was divided 16 ways while a small faction of low-information voters that watch too much reality TV drama delivered Trump a consistent but small plurality. That could very well happen again.

Pompeo’s memoir is best read as a campaign book, which means the salient passages to note are the ones that contrast himself with his would-be likely primary opponent, the 45th president of the United States. Of those, here is my favorite:

When I arrived in Germany for my first posting as a young second lieutenant, a grizzled staff sergeant quite a few years my senior picked me up in a Jeep and brought me to base. I guess I was eager to show him that I was a hotshot young officer, and I talked a lot during the ride. Then he turned to me and told me something I’ve never forgotten. Even though I outranked him, he had a lot more experience than I did, and he firmly conveyed with a few four-letter words that I’d do well to “just shut up and learn a thing or two.” It was good advice that I’ve shared with people time and again. Leaders should listen more than they speak, so that they can properly collect information and diagnose problems before giving direction.

For those who know Donald Trump, they know that when you’re with him, you get to listen. You get to listen a lot.

Real leaders listen.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there.