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Leaders Who Listen Make the Difference

In organizational behavior studies, students learn about motivating team members through active listening. When leaders listen to suggestions and ideas, team members are motivated, engaged, and feel respected and valued. However, leaders who are dismissive of their subordinates’ recommendations set a toxic tone, alienating themselves from their team. Authentic leader Marshal Chuikov understood the importance of listening actively to his soldiers, and he frequently visited with them in their dugouts to gain intelligence and information. When he incorporated their ideas, he gave them due credit as well. These actions demonstrated Chuikov’s commitment to motivating the 62nd Army to hold on in a seemingly impossible situation. In Michael Jones’ book Stalingrad: How the Red Army Triumphed, Vasily Ivanovich’s ability to listen to his soldiers and willingness to implement their ideas proved to be a winning approach to withstanding German attacks and ultimately defeating them.

Colonel-General Chuikov with the 8th Guards Army, Berlin, 1945

“Chuikov realized a fundamental truth—at a time of absolute crisis ‘every man is his own commander.’ Chuikov’s stroke of genius was to ‘hide’ his army’s weaknesses, the constant shortage of ammunition and vital supplies, its lack of formal training, by creating room for the life experience of the ordinary soldier. He listened to his men’s ideas and tried to incorporate them. By allowing his men an unusual degree of combat initiative, the great strength of his opponents, their well-honed, methodical and disciplined approach, began to turn into a weakness, an over-regimented and inflexible way of fighting. When Chuikov generated a spirit of inventiveness in his army—encouraging a different way of fighting—it shook the enemy. German soldiers began to complain of ‘hooliganism,’ the ‘gangster methods’ employed by Red Army troops. They didn’t like being jolted out of their routine and were unsettled—not knowing what to expect next” (179).


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