One of the most powerful leadership skills is listening. It’s also one of the most underutilized.
To listen is different than to hear. To listen implies that you not only hear, but that you seek to understand. You allow the words to sink in and you truly grasp what the other person is trying to express.
Too often, leaders have their own perspectives. Too often, leaders believe that they have the answer. Unfortunately, when they come to that conclusion prior to listening, they have failed to collect all of the information that is available to make a wise decision.
Young leaders especially must learn that authority does not come from speaking and giving one’s opinion. There is a time and a place to express your opinion, to make a decision, and to articulate a direction. But it must always follow listening, unless it is an emergency situation.
In normal decision-making processes, learn to ask questions. Learn to dive deeper and deeper into other people’s comments. Do not just hear, but seek to understand.
Use techniques such as the “5 Whys.” Ask deeper and deeper questions. Respond to comments with questions. Respond to comments by rearticulating what you think you heard and asking for confirmation.
Respond by seeking to understand. Do not be too quick to speak up, to defend, or to insert your opinion.
If you are, you will lose one of the most powerful opportunities you have: to collect information, to understand other people’s perspectives, to help others know that they’re really understood, and to make a decision with all of the information readily available.