Many appointees in top roles have superb industry credentials and a strong track record for being excellent communicators. They can disseminate information effectively and motivate their teams with insights and a shared vision.

However, some of the best leaders are those willing to receive enough information before they act or speak. They are the ones with acute listening skills – which means they take the time to understand input, they don’t just ‘hear’ what is said.

This can be a physical process of engaging with staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders, but also being tangibly responsive to digital communications. Showing an authentic interest and a willingness to act on what you hear – or receive virtually – could possibly be one of the most overlooked attributes of successful management.

Why is the ability to listen so important for leadership?

Creating a conduit for business intel

For one thing, the more inclined you are to receive information, the more people want to communicate with you! If you gain a reputation for being ‘tuned in’ to ideas, contributions and questions, then your team will feel confident to embark on open and frank exchanges.

That can be vital to capturing important business intelligence not just from colleagues, but also from other business circles you move in.

Building a no blame, no shame culture

Demonstrating your genuine interest in what people say – verbally or digitally – can be a crucial component in creating a supportive and positive work environment. It shows you can see things from all sides, and that you base your actions on honest input and well-informed evaluations.

This, in turn, increases the likelihood of people being honest with you and increases willingness to flag up issues before they become toxic.

Emotional intelligence in leadership

Effective listening can be the only way to apply sufficient empathy to management tasks. This can involve looking ‘behind’ the words and exploring what behaviours and emotions may lie beneath. Of course, measuring tone of voice and body language helps with this, but even with digital communications, there can be cues to someone’s uncertainty, anxiety or frustration, for example.

Bettering your leadership abilities

Authentically good ‘listening’ practices can involve a degree of courage. It can mean opening yourself up to negative as well as positive feedback from your team, peers and contacts.

Having acute listening skills can also mean digging down on unwelcome, jarring or badly delivered information, to find the genuinely progressive aspects. What have you learnt, and what can you improve?

To be sure your leadership abilities include listening on all levels, get in touch with us to hear about best practice and techniques for effective two-way communications.