How Can You Be Sure Someone Is Fit to Be a Leader? It Comes Down to 1 Word by

“How Can You Be Sure Someone Is Fit to Be a Leader? It Comes Down to 1 Word” | Written By: Marcel Schwantes /

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How Can You Be Sure Someone Is Fit to Be a Leader? It Comes Down to 1 Word

The cost of not having this skill can potentially hurt your leadership in several ways.

By Marcel SchwantesFounder and Chief Human Officer, Leadership From the Core@MarcelSchwantes
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Bosses unfit to effectively lead people are virtually everywhere. Chances are, you’ve probably worked for one in the past. But among those ‘bad boss‘ stories, there is bound to be one of a true leader that made a positive and lasting difference in your life. 

My example takes me back about fifteen years. I reported to an executive boss who was the most approachable boss I ever had, despite his positional status. He valued me as a human being, developed my skills, and allowed me the freedom to make important decisions. 

While observing so many of his successful habits, one powerful and rare leadership trait he consistently demonstrated made him fit to be a leader: listening

The importance of listening as a leader

Before you even assume that you’re fit to lead, you have to ask yourself am I a good listener? Because if you’re going to lead, you need to be. 

The cost of not listening can potentially hurt your leadership in several ways:

  • Your employees will be less willing to share information for fear of disapproval.
  • Your leadership decisions are likely based on assumptions rather than unity.
  • Your team members may be disconnected from you.
  • Your team members look to you for answers and lack taking ownership of their work.

On the flip side, recent research out of Hebrew University of Jerusalem published in Harvard Business Review supports evidence that leaders who listen well “are perceived as people leaders, generate more trust, instill higher job satisfaction, and increase their team’s creativity.”

One reason that listening isn’t more prevalent as a leadership skill in the workplace is due to managers thinking they’ll be perceived as weak or having lost power and authority. The other reason is that they are simply under time pressure or distracted by other thoughts or work.

5 strategies for becoming a better listener

The first thing required for better listening is to eliminate the noise – from your distracted mind and the constant distractions coming from your physical and digital environment. The researchers recommend these 5 tips:

1. Give your devices a break.

If you can’t give the speaker all of your undivided attention, it’s better to state that this may not be the best time to talk. When you are physically and emotionally available, put aside your devices and make consistent eye contact with the speaker to let him know you are present and listening.

2. Avoid interrupting.

When a speaker pauses or is processing a thought, the common temptation is for the listener to interrupt before the speaker is done. The researchers offer this helpful instruction to managers: “Go to someone at your work who makes listening very hard on you. Let them know that you are learning and practicing listening and that today, you will only listen for __ minutes (where the blank could be 3, 5, or even 10 minutes), and delay responding until the predetermined listening time is up, or even until the following day.”

One manager who tried this short listening exercise reported having completed a business transaction in 6 minutes that otherwise would have taken more than an hour. The manager said, “The other person shared things with me that I had prevented her from saying for 18 years.”

3. Listen non-judgmentally.

Let’s face it, we’re all guilty of being distracted by our own thoughts when people are speaking to us. Worse, we may falsely interpret what we hear and judge the speaker through our own filters. The researchers suggest five things to avoid the pitfalls of listening with judgment:

  • Avoid hastily evaluating what you hear by jumping to conclusions.
  • Be aware of the judgemental thoughts in your head and push them aside.
  • Apologize for losing track of the conversation due to your judgments and ask them to repeat.
  • Do not pretend to listen.
  • Refrain from fixing the problem for the speaker by imposing your solutions.

4. Ask questions to move the conversation forward.

Like a good coach probing the conversation for deeper meaning, the dialogue should have room for self-discovery questions to help someone explore their thoughts and experiences in search of answers to problems. Keep in mind, a good listener asks questions like, “What do you really want in this situation” and “Is there anything else?” to uncover new information and trigger a brilliant response.

5. Reflect on what you heard.

After a conversation is over, the researchers recommend reflecting on your listening for those missed moments where you “ignored potential leads or remained silent versus asking questions.” Also, think about what you gained from a great listening experience and how you can replicate it in more challenging circumstances.

Published on: Nov 19, 2019
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“How Can You Be Sure Someone Is Fit to Be a Leader? It Comes Down to 1 Word” | Written By: Marcel Schwantes /
November 19, 2019 at 05:52AM