In the 1999 movie, “The 13th Warrior”, Antonio Banderas plays an Arab in the company of a band of Norsemen. There is a scene where all the Norsemen are talking in a language the audience cannot understand while the lone Arab sits intently. Eventually the entire conversation is in English meaning the Arab can now understand what they are saying. When he responds to an insult in their language, one of the Norsemen angrily questions, “Where did you learn our language?” He responds simply, “I listened!

Effective communications is the quintessential skill for effective leadership and listening is a crucial component to effective communications. Many leaders attend class after class on how to speak and present, while very few, if any, have been to an effective listening class! Listening has always been a key part of my own success as a leader and I will use those examples to highlight the value of being a better leader by becoming a better listener.

In the early ‘90s, I became a corporate manager (non military) for the first time. I had been given a piece of sound advice around the difference between leading in the military and leading in a corporate setting. What made the transition successful was that during the first 90 days as a new manager…

I listened.

When I left Sprint in 2003, I made a conscious decision to work next in the entrepreneurial business space in order to expand my leadership skills. I scheduled meetings leaders in many different industries to learn the language of entrepreneurship. After a year the opportunity presented itself to join a growing business and was able to hit the ground running because…

I listened.

The opportunity above was later sold leaving me once again in a position to ponder my next move. It was even bolder as I decided to completely switch industries from a career in telecommunications to an opportunity in healthcare. Again, I scheduled meetings with anyone I could find who had expertise in healthcare such that when I landed an executive position with a disease management business, it was because…

I listened.

When the disease management business was sold several years later, it was time to move on to my own business. While the economy was deep in the recession, we started a new service business that did not include working directly with non-profit businesses. Seven years later, non-profits make up nearly a quarter of my business because…

I listened.

Listening is a crucial leadership skill that can quite literally mean the difference between success and failure. Training myself to improve my listening skills by asking more powerful open ended questions has been the key to my own success and suggest it can be part of your own journey to “Make Leadership a Way of Life”

How is listening improving your leadership?

Lead Well!