Leaders Who Listen

by  Will Lukang  |  Self Leadership
Leaders Who Listen

Take a moment and think of a leader you admire. Focus on how he/she interacts with their audience.

Does the leader listen and provide undivided attention? Or, does the leader at times cut off the other person in the middle of conversation?

Not to take any sides in politics, but former President Bill Clinton has the gift of captivating the attention of the person he is talking to by looking at the person intently like no one else is around them. By doing this, he makes the person feel special.

As Stephen Covey says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I personally have done this many times; I listened to respond, instead of listening to learn. As I became aware of my mistakes, I put an effort to listen carefully. At that point, I learned that I was indeed listening, but not understanding, when I experienced that I failed to remember some of the points that were discussed.

I decided to understand the different barriers to listening to help me avoid them: distractions, for example, such as anyone doing something and making noises; emotions that affect effectiveness; inattentiveness; and lack of clarity. By understanding these barriers, I’m able to focus.

A leader listens to receive, retain, process and translate the message. You’ll notice that great leaders are good listeners because they are not afraid to repeat what they heard to ask for confirmation. They also look into non-communication forms like facial expressions, gestures, and body language to get a complete picture.

How does a leader demonstrate effective listening?

A leader:

  1. Always maintains eye contact (most important).
  2. Uses body language to demonstrate that he/she understands what is being communicated by nodding.
  3. Asking questions to clarify the points.
  4. Repeating the message to receive confirmation.

To be a good leader, one must master the art of listening. By developing this skill, over time you’ll slowly head in the right direction.

Let me know your thoughts on my post. Do you agree? If you don’t, please share your thoughts.

Tell me about a time when listening impacted you!
Photo Credit: Fotolia: Edler von Rabenstein

About The Author

Articles By will-lukang
A dynamic, multi-faceted Information Technology Leader who demonstrates expertise in translating business needs into technology solutions that meet business objectives while developing strategies to optimize processes that improve efficiency and reduce costs. A certified coach, speaker and training from John Maxwell Team. A co-author of The Character-Based Leader.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

John Smith  |  15 Jan 2016  |  Reply

Hi, Will – you nailed one of the most common issues for leaders.

I was immediately reminded of an exercise which I have participated in and facilitated many times over the years with various groups.

The exercise seems simple – here’s the version I most often use:

Two people (sometimes three) share their thoughts back and forth on topics that matter to them for a set short time period.

The first person to talk simply shares their thoughts on some topic either assigned or of great important to them personally. They stop talking after 1-2 minutes when a buzzer or bell goes off.

The second person cannot begin talking about their topic until they have stated the first person’s message back to them completely and clearly – to indicate that they were indeed listening to what was being said.

The second person then talks about their topic and the first person must do the same.

This continues until people start glaring at me or the alloted time runs out. Then we talk about how it felt to have to clearly convey another’s thoughts, rather than simply launch into our own.

This exercise always produces a great amount of discussion, mostly focused around how difficult it is to simply listen to another person and keep your own thoughts from bouncing into your head.

There is more to the set-up and the selection of topics, but hopefully you get the general idea.

Listening to others at a level that assures understanding is more difficult than we think. Unless we make a determined and consistent effort to change our natural tendency to focus on our own message, we won’t hear them and we won’t understand them.

Great post, as usual:)


Will Lukang  |  21 Jan 2016  |  Reply

Hi John,

Thank you for sharing the listening exercise. I agree that listening is harder than expected. But in order for a leader to be successful, they need to exercise patience and practice active listening. I still struggle to do a good job with listening, but my awareness help me focus on it.

Have a great day!

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