Listening to Lead
A Performance Breakthrough
Too often, listening is what happens while leaders “patiently” wait to speak. Why? For one, antiquated notions of leadership. In the past, the leader’s role was to have the answer and to motivate people to follow along. Listening was not the dominate tactic for achieving that—asserting one’s self was. Unfortunately, the pattern persists. Harvard’s Ronald Heifetz, author of Leadership Without Easy Answers has noted that most leaders die with their mouths open. Why such a caustic remark? In our opinion, to compel leaders to transform their mindset and behavior and get serious about the discipline of listening.
Listening. It’s Hard on Leaders
Without discipline, a leader’s default is to pay more attention to their internal conversation than the actual conversation. This happens in part because listening is hard on people. It demands that we process perspectives that are different from our own. Perspectives that challenge our thinking, change our understanding—and at times leave us feeling vulnerable and unsure of ourselves. It’s also draining. The neuroscience research indicates that the human brain demands higher levels of sucrose to power itself when listening than speaking, and our brains seek to economize effort. Our organizations need leaders who listen and learn.
Don’t Lead Without It
If leaders listen they will learn. Learning is at the heart of all human progress, and we need progress today as never before. It’s time for leaders to embrace this calling and to develop a new mindset for leading. One that is driven by a passion for listening and an uncompromising commitment to the exploration of diverse perspectives. One that moves us to a future characterized by breakthroughs in how we lead, collaborate and create innovative solutions to our most important challenges.
Listening to lead. Its time has come.