Listening is one of the most underrated, but important leadership qualities. As a leader, you’ll likely do plenty of talking—people look to leaders for verbal guidance and advice. But your talking needs to be balanced with plenty of listening. I’d go as far to say that you probably can’t listen too much.
Like any skill, listening takes practice. You have to make a habit out of it. Many leaders struggle with listening because they think it’s passive—but that’s not true. Listening is active. It takes focus and attention. Improving your listening takes time and energy.
How can you practice your listening to become a better leader? You could get lost in the possibilities—so here are five manageable places to get started.
Knowing your audience is crucial to effective marketing. How can you communicate with someone if you don’t know who they are? And how better to know this audience than by listening to them? Understanding your audience begins with active listening.
This can take the form of surveys or online feedback. Invite your audience to engage on social media and elsewhere. You can also have a conversation with your audience in person. Get to know people. Talk to them. But more importantly, listen to them.
Growing as a leader requires listening to people who’ve been there before. That’s why it’s important to have relationships with mentors. Even more important than having mentors is listening to them. These have to be people you can trust and who are willing to share their knowledge with you.
Having a mentor you respect helps with listening. You’re more willing to hear from someone you trust and have a personal relationship with. Which is why it’s so crucial to surround yourself with mentors in the first place.
Don’t just work with your colleagues. Listen to them, too. Ask them for input—regardless of if you’re their supervisor or you’re theirs. Learn from them. Listening also shows empathy and builds trust. Developing a better working environment can often start with listening.
Invest time into building professional relationships based on listening. Take colleagues out to lunch or coffee. Ask them intentional questions about their work and goals. Be sure to do more listening than you do talking. Remove distractions that will keep you from remembering what they say.
OK—here’s the fun one. If don’t listen to podcasts, you’re missing out. There is so much good content being shared every day. And you can ingest this audio goodness while driving in the car, running on a treadmill, or sitting at your desk.
Listening to podcasts can help broaden your horizons in any way you can imagine. They’re like documentaries for your ears. In case you want some podcasts to start with (or are looking for even more suggestions), here are a few I’d personally recommend.
- Revisionist History
- Work Life with Adam Grant
- Church Juice (obviously)
- Bad Science
- Hardcore History
I saved the best for last, despite the fact that God should be the first you listen to. Listening to God is perhaps the most difficult item on this list. Because you don’t listen to God with your ears. Hearing from God requires a mindfulness and a personal relationship with him.
It’s easy to forget about asking God for advice. It’s easier to ask other people or sources. But God is the authority on everything. And He’s always eager to share with us. God cares about you as a leader and he’s ready to help you. All you need to do is listen.