JetBlue Airways chairmen Joel Peterson is no stranger to leadership.
He was student body president in junior high, and again in college. Right out of business school, Peterson joined real estate development company Trammell Crow in the French Riviera. By 29, he’d been promoted to treasurer. (That’s not even counting his 6th grade stint as safety patrol captain — a “big deal,” he says.)
In a recent interview with Adam Bryant at the New York Times, Peterson explains the secret to his rapid ascent, and it boils down to one thing: trust. “At the time, I wasn’t quite sure why,” he says, “but I think people tend to trust me.”
Since then, he’s figured it out, and the reason is simple: he’s a good listener, he says. “It’s not a technique — I’m really interested in what people have to say. But it does develop trust as a byproduct. If you’re authentic, open, you call things as they are, you really are direct and you listen well, that develops trust.”
The one thing that gets in the way of good listening? Having an agenda. “When you have your own agenda when you’re listening to someone, what you’re doing is you’re formulating your response rather than processing what the other person is saying,” he warns. “You have to really be at home with yourself.”
That means putting ego aside and resisting the temptation to perform. “If you have these driving needs to show off or be heard or whatever, then that kind of overwhelms the process.” But, he continues, “if you’re really grounded and at home with yourself, then you can actually get in the other person’s world, and I think that builds trust.”
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