Simon Sinek 

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Embracing Listening in Leadership: Building Trust and Understanding

The traditional view of leadership often paints a picture of a one-way communication street, where leaders instruct, and teams follow. However, this approach, akin to a dictatorship, is increasingly becoming obsolete in the modern business world. 

Effective leadership today is fundamentally about listening, understanding, and then guiding. It’s about creating an environment where every voice is valued, leading to stronger, more cohesive organizations. The biggest part of this version of a leader is a strong speaker who influences through their words. Someone who listens intently can silently influence with impact and can transform leaders.

The Shift from Dictating to Engaging

In top-performing companies, success is often attributed to a leadership style that emphasizes collective involvement. These leaders understand the importance of bringing their teams into the decision-making process, ensuring a clear understanding of the organization’s goals and challenges. This approach not only fosters accountability but also inspires loyalty and trust.

The Art of Listening in Leadership

Listening is a skill that, like any other, requires practice and dedication to develop. While many strive to become good speakers, the art of listening is often undervalued. Yet, it’s the good listeners who naturally attract others, creating deeper connections and understanding. As Stephen Covey famously said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This principle is pivotal in leadership, emphasizing the need to truly hear and comprehend others before responding or guiding.

The Impact of Effective Listening

The power of listening in leadership goes beyond mere information exchange. It involves making people feel heard and valued, which in turn creates more engaged and committed team members. 

As a technique or tactic, when someone quotes the person who is speaking and seeks further clarity, it not only shows that they listened with detail and they value more information, but it creates massive engagement

Understanding different communication styles and adapting to them is also a part of this skill. Have you ever left a meeting feeling unheard? That experience often leads to disengagement and frustration. Contrastingly, leaders who are trained to listen effectively can transform the dynamics of a team, promoting a more inclusive and productive environment.

Developing Listening Skills in Leaders

Becoming a better listener isn’t an overnight transformation. It involves conscious effort and strategies. Some of our favourite ways to coach people to become better listeners include:

  • Accountability: Have someone provide feedback on your listening skills after meetings.
  • The 80/20 Rule: Aim to listen 80% of the time and speak 20%.
  • Active Feedback Seeking: Ask for feedback from your team on your listening skills.
  • Professional Development: Consider working with a leadership development specialist or coach to hone your listening abilities.
  • Taking Notes In Detail: If you need to track what is being said and captured 
  • Quote The Person Speaking: When you are listening, instead of trying to one-up or add to the conversations, take something that the person speaking said and quote a specific area, asking for further clarity and understanding.

Combining Listening and Speaking

Effective leadership is not just about listening; it’s about the synergy between listening and speaking. It’s about understanding when to pause, listen, and absorb and when to guide, speak, and inspire. This balance is what transforms good leaders into great ones.

Many of our clients and colleagues actively seek to become better speakers. They take masterclasses, join Toastmasters, practice in front of the mirror, and more… but to really be a great speaker, you must learn to listen. It’s not a one-way street. Great speakers know how to listen to their audience, read the room, and deliver the right message at the right time to inspire, engage, and build trust. 

The evolution of leadership from a commanding role to a listening one is crucial in today’s fast-paced, diverse business environment. By prioritizing listening, leaders can foster a culture of trust, collaboration, and mutual respect, paving the way for more resilient and successful organizations.

Ready to learn how to build trust and understanding in your organization? Get in touch today.

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