Listening Leaders

American writer Ernest Hemingway once said: “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.”

If he’s right, that most of us never listen, then that includes most leaders. And that’s a scary thought.

Leaders are supposed to lead with our best interests in mind. But if they aren’t listening to their people, then how do they know what we want and need?

Economist Bernard Baruch once said: “Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

If he’s right, that listening and success are connected, then leaders should spend much more time listening than speaking.

It seems to me that leaders need a listening system. A simple yet reliable way to ensure that listening happens on a regular basis.

Here are four components I’d suggest for a listening system. What what you add?

Make listening a priority – Are you a good listener? Or do you take listening for granted? If you elevate listening to a place of importance in your life, you won’t overlook it and forget it so easily.

Listen daily – Is listening on your daily To Do list? To make it a habit, you must do it. You must schedule it. Set time aside in your plan for the day to make listening happen. You’ll want to schedule time to:

– Listen to your team. They may need more direction, support, or attention. They may have ideas for you on how to solve problems, improve service, improve safety, or save cost.

– Listen to your customers. They may have gripes you need to hear about. They may have suggestions that could give you a competitive edge.

Listen for success – When you listen, are you all there? Or do you half-listen? What are you hearing? You have to process what you are hearing, and then translate the input into action plans.

Listen to the Self – Do you ever take time to listen to your own inner voice? We each have an inner guide, like a compass within us. But most of the time, the small voice is drowned out by the noise of life . . . and ignored. This voice is signaling all the time and it just takes some quiet attentiveness to tune in and pick up the message.

If you follow the news, it seems to be filled day in and day out with world leaders and local leaders who are failing to listen to their people. Maybe that’s why there is so much suffering and conflict in the world?

Could listening be the answer?

The Dalai Lama once said: “Listening is like a torch that dispels the darkness of ignorance.”

Reminds me of my mom Ramona who was fond of saying, “Listen and learn.”


Posted by Terrence Seamon on July 12, 2010. If you would like more information on listening, communicating, and leadership, visit Terry’s website and invite him in to your organization.


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