Listening: Character of a Servant Leader (Servant Leadership #3)

We started this blog by talking about the general concept of Servant Leadership, then we explored the implementation of Servant Leadership in our daily operation. Last time, we talked about Vision as a character of a Servant Leader. A servant leader sees a need, and as he/she tries to meet that need, he/she started to lead others.

This time, we will continue to explore another character of a servant leader: listening. When we listen well, people feel that we understand, we care and they start to put their trust in us.

The question then is: how to listen well? Maybe we can start by asking, how to NOT listen well What happened when we stop listening?

  • We start to daydream or think of unrelated stuff, like what should I have for lunch etc., and we stop having eye contact with the person speaking to us

  • Or we may look at our phones, our watches, our laptops, the reports, the statistics

  • Or we may focus on how we should respond, and we just wait till the speaker stop and catch his breath and we jump right in.

  • Or we just don’t care and interrupt him and correct the wrong info or wrong analysis he made.

  • Even when we pretend to listen, negative emotions start boiling within us, like anger, contempt, frustration.

  • We make judgement without trying to understand

So, how do we listen well to the people we lead and serve? First we listen with our mind. We give them our attention, we try to enter into their world, we try to understand what they really mean, and we don’t let our mind wander.

We also listen with our body. It includes our tone, our facial expressions, our body posture, our eye contact. We also need to notice their body language, their non-verbal signal.

We listen with our words. We paraphrase what they said, we summarize their main points, we ask clarifying questions to help us understand. When we listen, we don’t give advice or solution immediately. We do those only after we listen well and are sure that we understand completely what they said.

We listen with our intuition. We listen for meanings behind their words and body language. We also try to notice what they are NOT saying. But we need to test our intuition with clarifying questions.

This brings us to our final point: We listen with clarifying questions. These questions help us understand accurately, and also help the speaker to understand himself in a deeper way. Professional life coaches use clarifying questions and other tools to help clients gain awareness of their assumptions, intentions, thought processes etc.

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