Joyce Elliott on the Power of Listening

Joyce Elliott served in the Arkansas General Assembly for 20 years and said the best advice she received was from Jodie Mahony, who served in the Arkansas General Assembly from 1971 to 2007. He told her to “listen well and listen deeply and never be hesitant to ask questions when I didn’t know the answers to something,” said Elliott, who is the executive director of Get Loud Arkansas, an organization that strives to increase voter engagement in the state.

It’s critical for leaders to engage others, she said. “Because if you’re not engaging in a way that people feel invited into whatever it is you’re doing, you’re not leading anybody.” 

Elliott said it’s important to make sure people understand their roles, and that it’s OK for them to take initiative. “They’re not there just filling the seat,” she said. “My expectation is you’re here to help make it better. And you are not here just to be a ‘yes’ woman [or] a hard ‘no’ woman.”

Elliott said her leadership style involves collaboration. “It is the hardest, but it is the most genuine, thoughtful way to lead because it forces you to get to know other people, respect the differences and work to help them understand where I am,” she said. But she said she also works just as hard to understand the other position, “and try to move forward from there.”

She thinks compromise should be the last resort. “I think when we just start out with compromise, that’s a pretty lazy way to lead,” Elliott said. 


This article originally appeared in Arkansas Business as part of “Lessons Learned: Women in Business Offer Leadership Advice,” a story highlighting eight women in leadership positions across Arkansas. Read it in full here.


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