Being a leader isn’t easy. While there are plenty of companies and educational tracks that attempt to “groom” people into effective leaders, there are also many that don’t do enough to prepare individuals to excel in leadership positions.
Often, people are promoted for being the best at a core job function, without regard to the fact that a management position requires not just technical aptitude but also leadership skills.
The Importance of Listening
We’ve written a great deal on the topic of leadership training and leadership development, and there are many components to becoming an effective leader. Leadership Consultant John Maxwell recently shared some of his own experience as a leader and highlights the importance of one of these components in particular: effective listening. In short, leaders need to speak less and listen more.
“If you want to lead, you’ve got to use your ears,” says Maxwell. “I’ve learned that truth several times over the course of my leadership career. In fact, as a young leader, my highest priority was expressing my ideas and convincing others to buy into them. I was less interested in listening to feedback or learning what others had to say.”
How Not Listening Can Hurt
Maxwell goes on to say that as a result of his speak-first-listen-later approach, he experienced a number of leadership “misses,” such as missed initiatives, ideas, and plans. He then sat down and made a list of the ways not listening was hurting his leadership:
- Few people were willing to share anything with him.
- His leadership was based on assumptions.
- His ideas were the only ones being implemented.
- No one was taking ownership of tasks except him.
- His team was disconnected.
It’s not at all uncommon for new—or even experienced—leaders to do more speaking than listening. Maxwell is a great example of a leader who recognized the costs associated with such an approach.
In a follow-up post, we’ll discuss the strategies he put in place in order to be a better listener; strategies that can benefit any leader in any industry.