Listening And Looking

Leaders are meant to pave the path. To lead the way. To go into the unknown.

The path may be unclear. That’s why leaders must possess two traits.

Leaders must be willing to listen and to look.

Mount Washington

Image by Izzard

Why Listen

Some people may wonder why leaders need to be willing to listen. They’re leaders after all. They’re the ones going ahead. There’s no reason they need to listen.

Sorry buddy, those who say this are wrong. In a major way.

It’s like in mountain climbing. As you’re ascending the mountain, you’ve got to keep your ears open for dangers.

You may experience rockslides, other climbers who are dangerous, or to hear your own voice once you’ve reached the summit.

Listening allows you to HEAR the dangers you may be coming upon.

You also have another reason to listen. Your partners may be warning you of a danger or letting you know something is wrong.

In leadership, your team members may see trouble that you’re unable to see. Or maybe they’re having trouble moving forward.

Listening to others allows you to save yourself or save them. Be open to listening.

Why Look

Looking is another key component of leadership. The territory you’re heading into is unknown and you’re leading the way.

Lets use the mountain climbing example again.

When you’re climbing a mountain, you’re on the lookout for the next bucket, pocket, or ledge to use as a handhold. The next foothold your foot can slip into.

You must look around and be aware of your environment. If not, you’re in danger.

Leadership requires you to scout ahead and see where the dangers are and what you can use to pull and push yourself up. You’re then able to shout back down to those following and let them know where they need to grab, what they need to push off of, and what to be wary of.

You’ll also look when you reach the summit of the mountain. You’ll want to take in the beauty and wonder of the goal you’ve reached.

Leaders need to do this as well. When you’ve accomplished a major project, led to new heights, or helped others achieve, feel free to look around and enjoy the view from the top.

Question: How are you listening and looking as a leader? What are you hearing and seeing? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Agree.  True leaders listen to those who are following and value their input.  Then they evaluate it and decide on a course of action.  Only the most arrogant of leaders think they have it all figured out on their own.

    • Exactly Larry. What are some ways you could show your followers that you’re listening?

      • Joe, I think in really simple ways. We work in an open environment where the entire team sits together. I am tempted to look at my computer when people on my team are talking to me. I often turn completely away from it so I can focus on them. Sometimes they also have ideas that aren’t my first choice, but will work. I listen to them and let them do it their way. I think it builds trust and they are more willing to listen to me when I need them to.

  • I love the verse from James, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

    Recently at work, I conducted four mini-workshops with focused groups of employees to get their feedback related to a recent employee survey.  And this week, we brought in the entire department to go over results and get more ideas.  I think this will be a valuable stepping off point for improvement in our department.  I hope the team knows we’re listening – they will see it through our response and our actions to these meetings.

    • Your team will be appreciative of your efforts to listen to them. Most companies don’t take the time to even hear out the employees and to get ideas. Sounds like your work is on the right track.

  • I listen and look at our culture’s deep brokenness and respond to it in writing story, poem, and song.

    • I like this Dan. If only more people were willing to take time to listen to the broken world around us.

    • That’s how healing and positive change happens. 

  • Joseph, I make it habit to listen regularly to my team. I don’t end any meeting without asking what else is going on? What can I help you with? Are there any issues or concerns that I need to be aware of? It is critically important to listen to your team. They are the ones out there who know what’s going on, and can provide valuable input. 

    • That’s an awesome way to end meetings Juan. Have you received a lot of feedback using this method?

  • Great points, both are important for leaders to do. Before blazing a trail it would be wise to listen to feedback and look where we are going. 

    • Exactly Dan. Care to share how you do this?

  • I think this is especially true when taking over a team, or when in a new position.  Often the best thing you can do for the first 90 days is just LISTEN & LOOK at what is going on.

    • Great observation Tom. If you rush in and begin to change everything without listening and looking to your team, it can create chaos.