Active listening defines your relationships and how you interact with others. It involves not just hearing the words that are spoken, but listening to the emotions, concerns, experiences and beliefs behind those words. It involves listening with the goal of understanding, empathizing and seeing the conversation from the other person’s point of view — even if you disagree with them.
As leaders, our ability to actively listen can influence the effectiveness of our leadership. It determines if our employees can trust us, how well we relate to our team and even how successful our visions are. Active listening transforms leadership by creating more empathetic leaders. It ultimately shapes how we build our leadership framework.
Here are five ways active listening can impact your leadership.
1. Determines how others perceive you.
How you listen will make more of an impression than anything you say. If you tell your team their thoughts matter but fail to actively listen, they will feel like you’re being dishonest or ungenuine. However, by actively listening to your team, you demonstrate that you mean what you say and are intentional about building and sustaining a genuine relationship with them.
2. Builds trust.
Actively listening in leadership shows that you are open to hearing their thoughts and are empathetic toward their emotions and concerns. By making a point to listen to their point of view, you will show your team that you truly value them as individuals and respect what they have to say. In turn, your team will trust you to lead and support them, and be able to get behind your vision.
3. Helps you understand your team.
Understanding your team is the most crucial aspect of your leadership context. By listening actively, you will get a clearer picture of who your team is and how they fit into your organization. You will gain more understanding of their values and priorities, and the strengths and abilities they have to offer. Active listening transforms leadership by allowing you to be better prepared to handle any concerns, biases and constraints that may come up, and show your team you value and understand them.
4. Gives you exclusive insight.
Your team has unique intuition about the inner workings and day-to-day operations of your organization. By carefully listening to your team, you create opportunities for them to share their thoughts. Active listening transforms leadership by giving you special insight into the climate of your organization and yield more effective feedback than you could get through any survey or questionnaire.
5. Provides clear direction.
By taking time to actively listen to your team, you will have a better understanding of what works, what can be improved and what needs to be changed in your organization. This will allow you to create a vision and framework that considers your team’s insights, concerns and values, while also meeting the needs of your organization. From there, you can start to create a realistic, obtainable framework for meeting your goals and start taking steps with your team to reach them.
Active listening places you in a valuable position as a leader. It will help you create a genuine relationship with your team built on mutual trust, openness and accountability. From there, you can stay grounded and understand your context as you form your vision for the future, knowing what is best for your team and your organization.