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Face The Challenge - Sample Section, Chapter 8

Chapter Eight - Listening

"Listening" considers the positive and negative effects of listening well and how listening to others for content has a significant impact on developing productive Subordinate relationships and how they are actually hearing the message. Included is a detailed analysis of how listening to others, listening for content, and accurately hearing the message determines a Leader's long-term effectiveness; and provides Subordinates with a primary source of information as to his or her fundamental leadership character and fitness.


8.1 Listen Well, Lead Well.  To lead well, Leaders must be superb listeners.  For historical archives abound with many thousands of disasters that have resulted from Leaders simply failing to listen to—let alone ignore—the sound advice of their Subordinates, peers, or superiors.  And Leaders who regard their auditory receptors as merely ornamental appurtenances deny themselves invaluable information that can offer insight as to the possible ruinous consequences of their obstinate, dull-minded decisions.  At an minimum, Leaders who fail to listen normally waste a great deal of time, miss promising opportunities, and suffer from reduced Subordinate enthusiasm.  More productively, a Leader must demonstrate respect for his or her Subordinates' thoughts or ideas by listening attentively to what they have to say and acting on such input when appropriate.  However, the burden of having to continually persuade or prevail upon others to get them to follow a certain course of action or to adopt a different point of view often consumes an exorbitant amount of every Leader's existence.  Consequently, Leaders can get so caught up in a perpetual "selling" mode that it completely dominates their conversational manner; whereby they use their superior knowledge, experience, logic, or aggressive personality to control every situation in order to make the "sale."  But such a, never-let-them-get-a-word-in-edgewise confrontational style severely inhibits Subordinate interaction, creativity, and input; especially if the Leader frequently interrupts his or her Subordinates or has a generally domineering or pedantic manner.  So in the absolute worst case scenario, Leaders must observe enough common courtesy in their conversational behavior to at least follow good parliamentary procedure.  And the common observation that everyone has two ears and one mouth, implying that people were meant to listen twice as much as they speak, has considerable merit for even the most intellectually astute or knowledgeable Leaders.  For regardless of their good intentions, the value of their thoughts, or how brilliant their gray-matter elucidations by which they often attempt to justify their incessant soliloquies; Leaders who are prone to talk too much remove themselves from the information loop, impede their accessibility, increase Subordinate frustration, and forestall their own professional growth.  (For an in-depth analysis of listening and communication skills, See Stephen Covey's, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit Five).

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Copyright 2006 by H. Garrett Hayward from Face the Challenge: The Leader's Success Handbook