In the quest to become better communicators, most leaders put the focus on the way they talk, rather than the way they listen. But a recent study by a prominent business group identified some major benefits that accrue to good listeners.
This research revealed that skillful listeners have a big leadership advantage over those who do all the talking. Clearly, listening is a vital leadership skill. Perhaps that’s why we read in James 1:19, “be swift to hear and slow to speak.” For one thing, they found that good listeners are more highly respected because they’ve shown they care about others.
Secondly, they discovered that good listeners tend to be better informed because active listening results in greater learning.
Thirdly, listeners were also better able to get things done because they were better motivators of people.
Finally, skillful listeners were much more likely to be “listened to” because they’d made others feel important.
Obviously, listening is a powerful ingredient in a leader’s mix of skills and habits. Jesus modeled this skill by frequently asking questions and actively listening to the answers. It should come as no surprise that the lessons derived from the findings of this study have been in the Bible all along. What were the common characteristics of listening leaders?
Content over Style
They also discovered that good listeners “judge ‘what’ the speaker says, not ‘how’ it is said.” In other words, don’t let a speaker’s delivery get in the way of your understanding the message. An angry messenger may have some valuable insight. In Proverbs we read, “A wise man heeds instruction, but a fool does not listen to a rebuke.” Tune out an angry speaker and you may miss a priceless nugget of information. Look past the messenger’s delivery for insight.
Are you a patient listener? Given the fact that you can think four times faster than someone can talk, you’re going to have to be if you want to master leadership through listening. One of the vital common characteristics of good listeners was “concentrated patience.”
When your thoughts race ahead of a speaker’s words, you can become detached and miss important information. The Bible says, “Patience is better than pride.” Don’t jump to conclusions. Be a patient and focused listener and your leadership effectiveness will grow.
The best listeners are optimistic ones. That should come as no surprise. The Bible has a lot to say about “expectation” and “expectancy.” There is a spiritual principle which causes us to get what we “expect.” The leadership study found that “optimistic listeners”–those who expected a speaker to say something of value–tended to be more successful. Skillful listeners look for and find truth, insight, and information in those who speak to them, and they do so because it’s what they expect.
Study after study has shown that effective listening skills can make you a more efficient, more knowledgeable, and more productive leader. But the same studies show that most of us are only 25 percent as good at listening as we are at talking. Shakespeare called it “the disease of not listening.”
It seems more of us need to take the James 1:19 cure in which the Bible encourages us to “be swift to listen and slow to speak.” The symptoms of the disease are strained relationships, faulty information, unwise decisions, wasted time and energy, and most of all, diminished leadership effectiveness.
Cultivate these characteristics of a good listener, and you’ll find your leadership ability growing by leaps and bounds.