Leaders Who Listen

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All of us have encountered leaders that do not appear to listen well. The bigger concern is that they seem to be the only ones who don’t know it. As a leader, you must know that we have a listening epidemic today.

Professional motivation among teams, colleagues, partners, and associates are at all-time lows.  Staff members are present, but disengaged. And in many cases, the leaders have no clue! There are times when motivation is low and it affects profits. For those in religious and social service sectors, the impact is greater. Because the work that we do involves souls, lives, families, and futures, the stakes are much higher. Disenfranchised workers operate without compassion, lack integrity, and miss the higher purpose of the work. These results are catatonic! And some of the solutions are simple – it starts with leaders who listen. And not just listen, but listen well.

Most leaders already know that great leaders are great listeners. The challenge is that often, that reality is not lived out in organizations and teams. And to be clear, listening is more than just taking a moment of silence while others are speaking. It is also hearing the heartbeat of a person, reading the eyes of an individual, feeling the pulse of the organization, accepting the areas that many consider to be your personal blind spots, and understanding the wave of the future. When you expand to that definition of listening, you really get a grasp on how little leaders really listen.

As a leader, you must authentically ask yourself:

1) Do I really, genuinely know those who are working with me?

Do I know their stories? Am I up on what’s currently happening in their world? Do I know what season of life they’re in? Do I know their motivators and demotivators? Am I willing to adjust my leadership style to pull out the best in them?

2) Do I fully feel the pulse of my organization–currently?

Are there candid conversations that those whom I lead have with others but not with me? Have I acknowledged my potential blind spots and provided the space for my team to cover me? Do I take the time to be fully present with my team and those in the organization? Do I provide clear leadership in the areas that fall squarely on my shoulders?

Am I too busy to be connected? Have I set a tone of attention in my organization? Am I only available for the crises or have I established an opportunity for engagement?

3) Have I fully positioned my organization to embrace the future?

Are there so many things happening around me that I have created a culture of missed opportunities? Am I committed to and consistent in implementing the vision? Have I delegated the role of vision-casting to others and thereby shortchanged my leadership and the organization? Am I focused enough to reinvent myself and those whom I lead or am I disconnected from those whom I lead?

These three sets of questions open the door for appropriate dialogue to move the organization forward. Beyond the organization, as a leader, you prove to be different than the rest. You prove that you are a real leader who listens. You prove that a real leader doesn’t just listen with their ears. They also listen with their heart and soul. Let’s stop the epidemic. The cure is available to every leader today – listen well!

Christopher J. Harris, a native of Palatka, Florida, is Director of Ministry Operations of the historic mega-church Fellowship Church of Chicago. He is also Overseer of Youth for Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International. Harris currently resides in Chicago with his wife and children. www.ChristopherJHarris.com.

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