Listening and leadership: some thoughts
Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine (who also worked in l&d) about core skills in various roles. The conversation turned to leadership development, as it often does. Apart from the usual soft skills of empathy, the ability to give and get great feedback (also covered here by the way), we came to the conclusion that one of the differentiators between a good leader and a poor leader is the ability to listen. To really listen, to listen for what is being talked about, not to listen to make your own point or defend yourself or the organisation.
Having talked about this for a little while, I asked the obvious question: How much time do we give to teaching listening in any of our leadership development workshops? And the answer is hardly any. In fact, I realised that there is only one of my courses that has listening skills embedded in it, and that is the one on coaching skills. Now coaching skills, I believe, is probably the most important skill or training that a leader needs, but it was quite a surprise to realise we don't teach listening anywhere else.
I think the reason for this is that we all have ears: we all assume that everybody knows how to listen. But this is not true. In fact, as we were talking, my friend mentioned how annoying they found it when people interrupted or completed their sentences, which only made me pay much more exquisite attention to how I was listening in our conversation!
It follows that if listening is one of the core competencies and differentiators of a good leader, then asking good questions is the second one. So, I'll come back to that next week – stay tuned!
That's all for this week, leave a comment below or tweet me and I'll be sure to reply.
A great leader is...