If you ask people in my life to describe one of my weaknesses, my hunch is each person will answer with one word - listening.
We, as leaders, are fix it people. We pride ourselves on our strong opinions, swift, decisive action, and our no-holds-barred disposition. All important traits. All contribute to leadership success. Yet all must be tempered by a powerful check-and-balance - listening.
Listening is the linchpin to legacy leadership. And I say this as the chief offender among us: Leaders can be more accustomed to speaking than listening and errantly so.
Listening is a leadership responsibility not found in any job description. Though maybe it should be because to get results from our teams and with our team, we as leaders need to practice the delicate balance of our desire to perform with compassion for our employees as individuals who have needs and great ideas they are happy to share with us if we actually listen to them.
When our teams feel and think we care about them, as people, they will work harder, be more loyal, and move mountains to execute the vision.
To be a legacy leader, we must have a strong voice and the self-awareness to really listen to even know what needs to be said with our strong voice.
There is much to say and learn about the art of listening. It is an evolving skill and something to be continually practiced. Here are three things about listening leadership to think about and practice today:
1. Be Humble - To enhance your listening in leadership, you have to be self-aware enough to understand, you do not have all the answers and you never will. If you believe you have all the answers, you will act that way. In turn, you will not have an occasion to need to listen to others.
2. Be present - You certainly don’t like to be interrupted while you talk. Why would you think anyone else is any different. Legacy leaders are compassionate and conscientious to not interrupt the flow of the dialogue. While listening to others, realize every interruption from you, begs for a step toward disengagement from them.
You earn respect from people by being a patient listener. Stay focused on what they are saying. Stay in the moment. Be present and be respectful of others.
3. Be understanding - Listen to understand instead of listening just to respond. Your response is meaningless anyway if you don’t understand what someone is actually saying and what they really need. In the listening comes a deeper understanding of the situation or that person and the power to even know how to respond effectively in the given situation. Only from a place of understanding will you know: Do I need to show empathy? Do I need to show inspirational leadership? Do I actually need to fix something or do I need to just shut up and listen? In your silence, the real answers actually come to the surface, the answer is amplified.
Listening takes deliberate practice. If you don’t feel as though you listen well at this station in your life, know you’re not alone. I continually have to remind myself to listen and not just listen to respond, but listen to understand. Keep practicing; this is part of our leadership journey.
P.S. For more encouragement in your leadership journey, check out my podcast Garage to Goliath | Leaders Building Legacies Podcast.