Beyond Attentive: A Leadership Skillset

“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.”  -Woodrow Wilson

Leaders create strong lines of communication not only through their ability to talk…but through their ability to listen.


It is an infinitely vital leadership ability and necessity.

The capacity to articulate clarity out of the complex and overwhelming is a fundamental leadership skillset.  It is also where most leaders place their emphasis…often overlooking the crucial backside to the equation.


Listening that transfers into hearing and deeper understanding.

As leaders, it is very often one of the most difficult and necessary things we do.  Yet, so rarely do we hear really hear what is really being said.  The underlying story that lies beneath…we so often miss.


Unfortunately, many leaders struggle to move past being merely attentive.  The demands, pace, and multi-tasking mindset often keep us pushed down into the attentive realm of listening.

As leaders we are so used to talking and persuading, explaining, cajoling, expressing, extrapolating…

That it becomes very hard to hear.

There is real power and influence in listening.  Listening deepens the lines of communication.  The way we listen speaks to those we lead.  It often communicates more than what we say.

Listening is a both a physical and a mental activity.  It requires us to lay aside what we are doing and immerse ourselves…

When we listen in a mindful and attuned manner…it is truly an all encompassing activity.  Requiring us to attend, tune in, and engage to not only what is being said and conveyed…but that which is not being said.  The hidden and underlying messages that often exist.

In our busyness and the noise of our everyday world, we can often miss the nuances…the tone, inflection, posture, body language…which convey that underlying, unspoken form of communication.

Very often we spend so much of our mental energy in crafting our own responses and talking points we miss much.

As leaders, we have to create opportunities that force us to listen…listen without expectation of response.  Allowing others to speak freely and to share their feelings, thoughts, ideas, and feedback without response.  To capture the full essence of what everyone is thinking, feeling, considering, and even holding back.  To let it all come out…to put it all out on the table.  Laid bare for all to see.  No explanation.  No clarification.  Just listening…and hearing.

One way to do this is to incorporate processes that allow for divergent thinking and production.  Create opportunities that allow for the free-flow of ideas and thoughts…without any response.

As leaders, no matter how difficult, we have to create the opportunities that require us to listen.  Allowing ourselves a chance to consider…consider all that is being said without any energy placed into a rebuttal or reaction.  Allowing others to be heard…


All that will be left for us to hear will eventually be the hollow sound of our own voice…

2 thoughts on “Beyond Attentive: A Leadership Skillset

  1. Love this one David! Some reflections for me as Ken Williams and I tweak our book on effective teams and leadership. Also reminds me of what a colleague once told me “Two ears, one mouth. Use them in that proportion.”

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