What is the Hardest Leadership Soft Skill?
19th March 2017
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Listen as an expert listener. Focus completely on the person sending you a message.

We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.”. ― Zeno of Citium, as quoted by Diogenes Laërtius

This is a simple observation by Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy.

There is a reason we have two ears and just the one mouth.  The fact is most people don’t realise the significance of this. Most average leaders listen with average skills.  They will only ever get average results.  

If you want to be an expert leader producing outstanding results then mastering listening skills is key.

But listening has been made even more difficult lately as there are so many more distractions in our lives. (Great article Click Here) We are information rich and could be suffering from overload as technology “enhances” our experience. You need to try harder to focus on listening above these distractions.

Why are good listening skills so important?  Well, it boils down to basic human nature.  Ralph Nichols is known as the “Father of the Field of Listening,” and established the International Listening Association. He stated "The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them."How much emphasis do you really place on the true art of listening in your leadership?

Steven Covey, (leadership expert and world famous author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change) says

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”


My point is that effective listening is a skill which needs attention, as it can greatly improve your personal effectiveness and the level of success you have with your business (and your personal life!).

There are three levels of listening (Laura Whitworth, Co-Active Coaching).

  • Level 1: internal listening - awareness of ourselves. “What does this mean for me?” (Many people only ever achieve this level!)
  • Level 2: focused listening- you listen with all your senses. (It is great to be heard by someone who practices level 2 listening!) 
  • Level 3: global listening - listening as though you were the other person, acute awareness and accessing your intuition. This takes great skill. 

Most average leaders put too much emphasis on sending messages. This happens at many levels, internally, externally and in everyday interactions between the humans involved.

My view is that you should double the energy and focus placed on the second half of effective communication – the listening, i.e. two ears, one mouth. By doing this you will understand your people (internal and external ones) and this will be sure to produce improved results.

The hardest and most significant soft skill as a leader is to listen as a global listener.  Leaders who use coaching skills develop as highly effective listeners.  That’s what we specialise in with our Leadership Development packages, making expert leaders.

To find out more call or email and we can discuss how to help you become an outstanding leader who produces excellent results. We have a Leadership Booster Day April 21st  where we cover some of the key aspects of effective leadership.  Spaces are limited

Call to book 01424 830000

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About the Author

Rachel Stone

Member since: 17th April 2013

Rachel Stone, MD of Bespoke Training Eastbourne Ltd, is an award winning coach who works with business owners and senior staff in businesses to develop leaders who are experts at producing results. She...

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