Most of us know what good listening involves. When I pose the question to groups “how do we know when someone is really listening to us?” they have no trouble filling a flip chart or two with the most detailed descriptions of behaviour, body language, phrases used and so forth. But when I ask the question around how well their leaders listen to them, the response is very mixed. Many people report leaders who may say they listen but give little evidence of having done so. Some leaders just don’t listen very well, others do it well at the time but do not follow it up with any action. This all leaves me wondering why is it that most leaders usually know how to listen but often appear to fall short of doing it effectively?
Perhaps many leaders think that it is the job of their followers to listen to them, not the other way around. The images that many people have of leaders are either
- someone ‘leading from the front’, with their ears turned away from their followers, or of
- someone at the front of a room presenting to people or of
- a general in a tent somewhere well behind the lines directing the troops like a chess game, or a
- a thought leader, researching and ruminating in dark laptop light filled room.
- What picture pops into your mind when you think of a leader?
- Does this image conform to what kind of leader you are... or want to be?
- If you think deliberately of a listening leader, what image now comes to mind?
- How much of your leadership is about listening...?
- How much of your leadership would you like to be about listening?
- Does your image of leadership match this?