Ever get the feeling your boss isn't listening? If she's a lousy leader, your hunch is probably right.  

That's according to research from the Columbia Business School, which found the best leaders at work are ones who take time to listen to their employees. Even better, they're able to see others' perspectives, making a real effort to get where they're coming from.

Bad leaders, on the other hand, don't do any of this. They're more apt to see things from their own point of view, and the more power they get, the worse they become. Attaining power puts a wedge between the leader and his or her employees. Bosses tend to develop a control complex that comes with the first taste of power. (And sometimes they are just bullies.) 

Worsening matters, notes the B-school's press release, is the fact that while some people are great perspective-takers, they aren't so great at making change. A truly effective leader, then, is someone who has it all: power, a healthy perspective, and the willingness to tackle tough problems. 

In the first and second experiments, researchers found combining power with perspective-taking improved interpersonal treatment, while a third experiment found working with someone face-to-face improved information-sharing, leading to better decisions. Put simply, making an effort to truly listen worked. 

Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that some of the best leaders swear by these skills. "I want our managers to care deeply about the people who work for them," Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal told Inc. last year, "to know a lot about each person individually and what motivates them." 

There's another reason to be empathetic, too. "When you have an inexperienced team, people may not know what they want to do," Blumenthal said. "It's part of the manager's role to help people discover what makes them happy and [what] they are great at." 

Published on: Sep 22, 2014