Why Great Leaders Are Great Listeners

By Daniela Ibarra

The deepest need in human nature is to feel valuable and important. As a leader, you should always respond to this basic human request and look for ways to make people feel important and valuable as parts of your team.

Effective listening is the key to leadership, persuasion, and good communications. So if you wish to be a great leader, you must first become a great listener.

Here are four keys to being a great listener:

Listen attentively.

Lean forward. Don’t interrupt. When you listen attentively, you raise the other person’s self-esteem and make him or her feel important.

Pause before replying.

This benefits you in three ways:

1) You avoid the risk of interrupting if the speaker is just pausing to reorganize his or her thoughts.
2) Pausing allows you to hear at a deeper level and understand more of what the speaker really means.
3) Your silence makes it clear that you are carefully considering what the other person has said, making him or her feel more important.

Question for clarification.

Never assume that you know what the other person meant by what he or she just said. Instead, ask how they feel or what they did about it.

Rule: The person who asks questions has control over the person who is answering the questions.

Feed it back.

Paraphrase it in your own words. Good communicators are aware of the emotional element in effective communication—the importance of understanding the emotional motivations of the people with whom you’re communicating.

But any efforts to address emotional issues must be based in sincerity. People will know when you are saying empty words, when your appreciation, approval, admiration, or attention is completely false.

As pathos is linked to ethos; emotional responses are linked to credibility. If you don’t believe what you’re saying, don’t expect others to believe you.

According to Albert Mehrabian of UCLA, a conversation contains three elements:

1. Body language—55 percent of the message.
2. Tone of voice—38 percent of the message.
3. The words themselves—only 7 percent of the message!

If you are faking sincerity, your body language and tone of voice will probably give you away, no matter what your words say.

Remember: as a leader, in every interaction with every single person, you should respond to the basic human request, ‘make me feel important!’

Leadership Training

If you’d like to learn more about how to become a better listener, check out our new interactive video “Leading by Listening.” In this video, managers and supervisors will learn why being a good listener is crucial for leading a successful team.

Leading by Listening
Daniela Ibarra researches and writes on a variety of business topics, including workplace dynamics, HR strategies, and training trends and technology.