Most of us, myself included, tend to take the ability to hear for granted. We also too often confuse the ability to hear with the ability to listen.
Hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences.
The best leaders listen. They are always listening. They even listen to things that they would just as soon not hear.
Leaders make themselves available to hear the “noise” in their organizations because that’s like inside information.
Weak leaders try to silence the noise, better leaders encourage it and find a way to turn even negative noise into useful information. Think about it, would you as a leader rather pretend all is well or would you rather know where your opportunities for improvement might be?
When you listen, really really listen, you will likely hear some things you wish you hadn’t. You may even hear some stuff that isn’t true. You must also realize that part of your role as a leader requires that you have the ability to sort the good information from the not so good. (A bit of an aside here but as a leader you also do have a responsibility to stop untruths from being spread)
Authentic Servant Leaders know that good listening is the beginning of great ideas so they listen at every level of their organization.
They also listen with more than their ears. They “listen” with their eyes to determine if what they are hearing matches with what they are seeing. They “listen” with their heart as well to determine the level of emotion attached to what was said.
Authentic Servant Leaders understand that communication is a participative endeavor and that actually communicating requires them to listen more than they talk.
If you’re a true leader then you certainly know that you still have much to learn. Hopefully then you also know that you’ll learn more in a few minutes of listening then you’ll learn in hours of talking.
So listen up. Listen to what was said, listen to how it was said, listen to when it was said, and listen to whoever said it.
You’ll never know where your next learning opportunity will come from unless you’re always listening. Anyone can teach everyone something and that means as a leader you should invest the time to hear from all of your people.
Did you hear that?