One of the main virtues of a true leader is listening. Listening, not hearing, gives the advantage of analysing and of ensuring that one addresses issues and matters in an appropriate manner and with that level of importance they may or may not warrant. One would also be in a better position to address matters in the appropriate language, thus ensuring one is heading in the right direction.

Shutting down, pretending to listen and pretending to address others' interest is far from looking ahead long term. No leader with a vision can ever ignore the messages people are transmitting, particularly if they come with a certain level of enthusiasm and/or concern. Failing to listen means there is either a defective structure or that, alternatively, there is no true leader but an administrator.

Certain organisations in Malta are avoiding to take the necessary measures in order to have the appropriate structure in place to be in a better position to analyse what is really going on. It is crystal clear that they do acknowledge that a problem exists but they do not seem to be doing anything about it.

Probably, for some it is hard to analyse, understand and deal with contrasting views. No one said that is easy and that is where the role of the leader comes in.

It is a pity that in this day and age some people within national organisations are failing to listen and so they obviously cannot realise that many are not in agreement with their interpretation of matters. An example of all this is basically what is happening within the Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises - the GRTU. Confirmation that a non-listening structure exists there emerges from what happened recently with respect to the resignations of Hubert Agius and myself.

The presidency and the administration seem to have overlooked the real reasons behind our resignation and the 24 proposals we forwarded for the improvement of the GRTU's structures and modus operandi. Instead, a series of false allegations were made in our regard, allegations that are nothing but a figment of somebody's imagination. The same people making such allegations failed to address the issues raised when invited to speak about given topics during a council meeting.

Chambers and unions need leaders. Sometimes they also have to assume a doctor's role. The first thing a general practitioner does is talk to the patient to understand the symptoms and then analyses them. Subsequently, the doctor can either decide to do nothing, prescribe medication or guide the patient in taking care of his health. The doctor may also decide to refer the patient to either a specialist or to hospital. Did anyone come across a doctor that gets it right before the patient explains what he is feeling and before a diagnosis is made?

This confirms that listening is crucial. This applies also to a chamber or union, or to any other organisation for that matter. Of course, they would need to analyse the economy in general and in doing so they need to understand how the prevailing economic situation is affecting their members.

There are three aspects we analyse in business: the general environment, the immediate environment and the internal environment. Chambers and unions may have an impact on both the general and the immediate environments. The general environment is the macro economic situation, including national, European and global effects of, among others, economic and political issues. The immediate environment relates to matters such as competition, suppliers, customers, banks and so on and so forth.

Both aspects do not act independently from each other and, obviously, the general environment has a huge effect on the immediate environment. For example, the effects of a healthy economy or otherwise are reflected in the immediate environment. Hence, one needs to analyse the symptoms occurring in the immediate environment. Such an analysis requires qualitative and quantitative research and not mere conclusions based on face-value analysis. This research should also include the effect of certain decisions on business and various "what if" analysis and how these affect different sectors. Without such analysis I doubt whether any chamber could professionally meet its objectives.

The problem is even larger when unions or chambers realise they are facing lack of credibility as a result of addressing issues that are not being tackled in a manner that ensures the highest level of benefit possible for some of their members. Rushed decisions and rushed actions, including rushed strikes, have led and will lead to nowhere. Businesses have sophisticated ways of operation nowadays and, yes, they do expect that representative organisations adopt refined ways of dealing with matters, ways that reflect the future we are approaching.

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