Whatever you do in life, listening is important, especially if you’re a leader. Whether you’re the CEO of a mega-corporation in New York or a pastor in a Christian church in Dubai, it’s an integral life skill that you must possess.
It’s a common misconception that leaders, because of their authority and the nature of their role, are supposed to be the ones talking instead of listening. However, that should not be the case; leaders should open their ears just as much as they speak, or perhaps they should do the former even more.
Listening is Learning
Information – a term that is often associated with those who work in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, little do people know that it’s also something that is highly valued by leaders as well. After all, they need information to organize those who follow them, plan future goals, deal with processes, and predict and solve problems. And one of the best ways to learn the information you need is by listening to others.
If you want to be a good leader, you should understand that you might not be the most intelligent person in the group, or that you have the expertise – and therefore the information – needed for a particular aim, problem, or system – and that’s okay! All you need to do is to ask for and listen to the opinion of those under you who have the necessary knowledge and experience that you want and need.
Who to Listen to
If you project an imposing image that makes you seem unapproachable, closed off, and unwilling to listen, you’ll either drive them away or make them grow silent, leaving you with nobody to ask advice from, as you have made it seem to them that whatever input they could have provided is unimportant or unneeded. That is why in order to find the people you need, you first have to be more open and receptive of what other people would have to say. This is because people love telling their opinions and knowledge to someone who will readily accept them and find them helpful.
From the pool of people who are willing to give you their perspective, select those who can help you. Make it a regular thing to gather people who have suggestions regarding the organization. They don’t have to be someone who is in a high-ranking position; in fact, you shouldn’t be ignoring those on the grassroots level, as they have firsthand experience with the daily operations of your organization.
Set up meetings or open forums, talk to people verbally instead of just relying on written reports, or even organize a system of your own that allows people to be heard and for you to listen.
Other than the Positive
The people under you will tell you different things – positive, negative, or even neutral. It’s good to receive something positive – a compliment or two should make you feel that you’re on the right track. However, criticisms, failures, unwanted suggestions and other things that you may take as negative should be given just as much attention to, if not more. They can be the most bitter of pills to swallow, but it is through them that you learn the things you have to improve on. So when you receive them, don’t instinctively react; instead, keep an open ear and mind first, and try to see the merits of such comments.
Leaders should only speak and followers should only listen – a misconception that you should’ve unlearned by now. After all, you can never be a good leader if you are not a listener.