Leading Through Listening: Enabling the Best Solutions to Surface
As we considered two elemental questions about leadership—When leaders listen, what do they gain? and Why do some leaders not listen?—our experiences with FS/A clients informed our responses, and we generated a list of common characteristics of leaders who know how to listen.
- Desire to be better tomorrow – The most successful leaders and clients we have worked with have all have the desire to learn, grow, and be better tomorrow than they are today. And they are open to learning from anyone. Conversely, our most challenging clients felt they had the answers, and they were unwilling to listen. As a result, we could not help these clients to the degree we would have liked. The capacity to humbly admit to not having all the answers is vital for great leaders to be even better tomorrow.
- Respect and appreciation for collective intelligence – Great leaders tap into the collective intelligence to enable the best solution to surface—they come to the table ready to acknowledge they do not have all the answers. None of us knows as much as we would like when making decisions. That said, the leader is responsible for the decision. The first time I had an IT specialist help me with a computer problem, I was surprised to find him searching online for a solution. He tapped into a vast resource of collective intelligence.
- Curiosity – Great leaders are curious about the reasons why others see a situation differently. What do they know the leader does not, or did the leader miscommunicate? Great leaders speak 10-25% of the time during a discussion, mostly asking questions that challenge others to think—and contribute.
- Ability to listen deeply – It starts with listening. To operate at Peak Performance, we need everyone on the team to be in the game and feel like a valued contributor. Creating a culture that is respectful and values listening to others enables learning from each other. This sets the stage for building a learning organization, one that, at its foundation, says, We are going to become sustainably successful by learning and growing together to be better tomorrow.
It starts with leadership shifting from insisting they have the answers to being curious, asking questions, and engaging the collective intelligence of the team—this all happens as the leader shifts from me to team. The curious leader will:
- close the gap on becoming the leader they are meant to be by being open to the growth opportunities team members provide;
- become the leader their team needs by listening and reflecting on what is working and what is not;
- create a culture where the team members support each other in learning and growing to close personal Peak Performance gaps, all in service of making the team better; and
- create an organization that possesses a competitive edge as they are constantly learning and growing.
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