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Great Leaders Are Great Listeners


ear hearing

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force” wrote Brenda Ueland. And we are drawn to great listeners; those people who “really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and want to sit in their radius as though it did us good.”

And most of the leaders we have most respected and desired to emulate are great listeners. The irony is that the further we go up the leadership ‘food chain’ the harder it can be to find time to listen actively. And the reality is that is the very moment it is most important.

If we don’t, our normal need to feel important – “Let me help you” – gets transformed into grandiosity – “I have all the answers”. This is the very opposite of great leadership.

With that in mind, we offer this list of ten practices of great listeners. Consider how many you practice now – and which ones you want to add to your leadership repertoire.

  1. Face the person speaking to you.
  2. Maintain eye contact – to the degree that it is focused yet comfortable – not creepy.
  3. Minimize external distractions.
  4. Respond appropriately, to show that you understand what you are hearing.
  5. Focus solely on what the speaker is saying – not what you are going to say next.
  6. Minimize internal distractions. What happens next doesn’t matter in the moment.
  7. Keep an open mind.
  8. Avoid telling the speaker how you handled a similar situation, unless he or she asks.
  9. Wait until they finish to defend yourself, if they are critical of you.
  10. Ask questions for clarification – but don’t interrupt the speaker’s train of thought.