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Feb. 2011 - Leaders Must be Listeners

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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Dr. John KlineThe need for leaders to listen should be clear. Leaders will not maintain their position if they don’t listen well. Chief Executive Officers and senior managers declare poor listening is the number problem in their organizations at the same time that good listening is a major determinant of success and promotions in the company. Leaders must master three types of listening.

Listen to improve relationships. Listening allows leaders to get into the world of their followers—to see, hear, feel and understand as they do. Listening builds trust and respect and communicates care and concern about others and what they are saying. Leaders must be careful not to interrupt followers or become judgmental of what they say. Also, rather than responding immediately, leaders should reflect on what followers say and summarize the essence of the message to demonstrate they were listening; this also gives followers a chance to clarify their messages if the leader’s summary demonstrates lack of understanding.

Listen for Information. Leaders must be spring-loaded and ready to listen. Many factors affect how well leaders listen—emotional or physical health; environmental factors such as room temperature or outside noise; stress factors such as weariness or things weighing on the leader’s mind. Skilled leaders work hard to offset or minimize such things. They also listen for ideas, not just facts. Concentrating exclusively on the facts often causes listeners to miss main ideas. Facts may be interesting in their own right, but the reason facts are given is usually to develop a generalization or support and idea.

Listen Critically. Critical listening is necessary since leaders must make decisions and lead others in making decisions that affect both people and the task at hand. Leaders must know their own strengths and weaknesses as critical listeners and know biases that may affect their judgment. And they must always consider the source of their information as they make decisions; for information is no better than its source.

Leaders must be listeners.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama
jkline@klinespeak.com

Feb. 2011 - Leaders Must be Listeners
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