Leaders hold a crucial role in nurturing collective thinking as a resource. Those appreciating the value of experience and knowledge in each team member foster a safe space for exchanging ideas. They see the synergy from combined resources as valuable input toward better, well-informed, and inclusive decisions.
Why active listening is a valuable leadership skill
Everyone faces life challenges, and dealing with them, and seeking support from a professional, either for personal development or psychological assistance, is self-care. To step out of an uncomfortable situation, to understand that it’s okay not to feel okay. There are solutions and support out there.
The version of “I must” that refers to autonomy is intrinsic and represents something meaningful for us. It reflects our freedom of choice and the power of determination, guided by our internalized values.
I was asked recently by a person in a managerial position about the right balance between accepting other team members’ ideas and sticking to personal opinions or standpoints in decision-making.
The question was to what extent to reflect knowledge as power and insist on personal opinion, and on the other hand, to show inclusiveness in decision-making and listen and accept what other team members suggest.
That reminds me of my workshop’s favorite question: “what’s the most valuable leadership skill”? I usually get answers like vision, knowledge, and experience. All of these answers are correct, of course.
Advantages of active listening skill
However, these are based on limited resources. These are resources a person can gain in a limited period of time, which we call life experience.
Describing the impact of AI on different occupations, Juval Harari, in his book “21 lessons for 21 century”, wrote that computers could be more efficient in the future in diagnostics because they can gather more knowledge than the average person in seven years of medical study could gain.
This gets me close to the point that active listening is among the most valuable leadership skills. It is a great tool to broaden resources like ideas, knowledge, and experience toward making more profound decisions. Shared resources can broaden resources to more years of experience than the age of one decision-maker.
Sharing is essential for more profound decisions
We have our way of thinking, mindset, patterns, and personality traits. However, active listening skills enable us to question these and widen our perspectives.
In his book “Theory U,” Otto Scharmer wrote that “listening is probably the most underrated leadership skill.”
He describes three instruments of inner knowing – open mind, open heart, and open will connected with the three types of listening:
- Downloading – reconfirming we already know, listen to ourselves, not others.
- Factual – when we shift our listening from ourselves to the other person and open up to what is being said. It requires opening the mind.
- Empathetic – when we can see the situation through the eyes of the other person. Ir requires opening the heart.
- Generative listening – the highest form of listening when we hold space for bringing something new into the reality that wants to be born.
Common interest above power games
Back to the question from the very beginning, the answer is: “Why talk about power games instead of goals?
Listening as a skill could bring more information, ideas, and perspectives to the table if team members focus on common goals and the organizational “big picture.”
Active listening with curiosity, open heart, and without prejudice could help leaders to expand their resources toward greater credibility and better-quality decision-making.