Listening and leadership complement each other in powerful ways. There is no such thing as a good leader who lacks listening skills. Listening is essential for effective leadership.
I urge leaders to practice listening with partners, friends and colleagues. As the listener, pay close attention. Try to restate what you hear.
The next step is to ask clarifying questions. For example, “I understand that the distribution pipeline is completely rearranged thanks to COVID. Are the changes due to workers being worried about the elimination of mask mandates and skipping work, or instead is consumer demand changing how goods are being distributed?” This demonstrates not only that were you listening, but you were listening closely; that you were engaging with the words.
Finally, offer encouragement. If we continue with the same conversation, the leader might say, “That’s interesting about the evolving nature of consumer demand during COVID. Please tell me more about this. These are valuable insights.”
Now more than ever, good leaders must focus on listening skills to gain full understandings of what is going on with individuals and across organizations. For many of us, we are just beginning to reengage with a world we last visited more than a year ago. In many ways, the straddle between COVID hibernation and vaccine-prompted social liberation is more baffling than life during lockdown. Robust listening helps build sturdier relationships and more nimble companies as the world of work rapidly evolves. It is simply essential. Do not hesitate to commence practicing immediately.