Seven Practices of a Listening Leader

Wise leaders listen. As the Proverbs teach us, “Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Earlier this week I shared four warning signs that indicate you may not be listening to your team. It is poor leadership not to listen to those on your team. They are closer to their area of responsibility than you are, closer to the people their teams serve than you. If you fail to listen, you fail to gain the valuable perspective that could be gleaned. You also reveal that you view them as mere cogs in the wheel and not valuable contributors to the whole.

But how do you listen as a leader? What does a listening leader do? Here are seven practices of a listening leader.

1. Study the Word

Trends will change, thinking will shift, and new ideas will constantly emerge, but the Word of the Lord remains forever. Immerse yourself in the Word so you are able to submit to His truth in your actions and reactions each day. As the Word of Christ dwells in you richly, you will be able to admonish others with wisdom (Colossians 3:16).

2. Pray

As a leader spends time with the Lord, the leader is more sensitive to His promptings throughout the day. Before you listen to anyone else, listen to Him. You don’t need to lead alone. You are able to walk with Him in your leadership.

3. Read

Books provide leaders an opportunity to receive counsel and insight from great leaders and thinkers in a plethora of disciplines. By reading, you are listening to others who are likely offering their best thinking in their books and articles.

4. Ask questions

A listening leader doesn’t just ask for commitment; a listening leader asks questions. Ask questions of your team. Questions such as “What are your greatest roadblocks?” “Where are you seeing the most momentum?” and “What can I do to help?” provide you with both insight and opportunities to serve those who serve alongside you.

5. Probe

Listening leaders don’t just want to know “what” the team does but “why” they do it. When you see something in your area of responsibility that concerns you or excites you, probe. Do some digging on both the “what” and the “why.”

6. Limit talking in a meeting

A listening leader limits the amount of time spent talking in a meeting. Instead of hosting a meeting so others can hear the leader pontificate on a variety of subjects, a listening leader views those around the table as partners with valuable insight. Schedule others to lead sections of your staff meetings so that you are not the default talker.

7. Walk around

Listening leaders get out of their offices. Management by wandering around (MBWA) is a leadership concept that encourages leaders to check in on areas of the organization. As opposed to announcing your visits, where everyone can put on a performance for the leader, the emphasis is on wandering. Wandering/walking around gives the leader an unfiltered view.