Friday, August 23, 2013

Listening Develops Leadership Skills-A Path to People

Listening to employees may be one of the most important fundamental aspects of developing strong leadership skills. Without the ability to listen it is also unlikely that a person will be able to gain enough environmental awareness to effectively lead others to new heights. According to a study conducted by Kluger and Zaidel (2013), leaders develop from their listening skills and different kinds of leader’s emphasis what they are listening for.

It has been argued that only leaders who are willing to listen will be able to create enough candid discussion to develop and grow their businesses. It is through understand the essential roots of messages that it is possible for leaders to understand their environments and ensure that their messages are being received appropriately. Without appropriate reception mistakes, misunderstandings, and conflicts can occur. 

The development of leadership requires a level of listening (Avolio, 2011). Without listening it is hard for people to understand their environments, the needs of people, and their abilities to influence those environments. Listening ensures that the leader is receiving a level of feedback to help them assess appropriate courses of action. 

Listening can also lead to social power (Cheng, et. al., 2013). From an evolutionary perspective one can gain power by intimidating others or by gaining prestige and respect. Listening gains a level of respect but in and of itself does not lead to dominance. However, the information one gains from listening may lead to dominance of when decisions are more influential.

Of course listening is not a single sort of concept. Some leaders have developed skills in listening for interpersonal information while others are better at listing for technical content (Bodie & Worthington, 2010). In many ways this relates to the approach of people based or action based approaches to influence. 

The researchers used 238 Israeli employees from the age of 21-54. They found that perceptions of employee were broken down into constructive and destructive listening. A focus on listening to facts only appears to be correlated highly with destructive listening and this was associated more with leaders who rely on structure. Listening to the needs of the person was more associated with personal influence. The results also further lend support that those with strong listening skills are more likely to develop effective leadership skills. 

Listening is the root of all social skills. Without listening it is hard to understand others, their needs, their desires, their cravings, and their wants. Of course, if you do not understand the nature of people you cannot possibly lead effectively. One can be limited by a lack of social awareness and understanding. Those who seek only facts from listening are often perceived as destructive and heavy users of social structure while those who listen to the person’s needs are considered more constructive. Effective listening requires the ability to empathize with the person while not ignoring the facts of the conversation. Both needs and facts can create an effective way of encouraging others to perform at a higher level.

Avolio, B.  (2011). Full range leadership development (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Bodie, G., & Worthington, D. (2010). Revisiting the Listening Styles Profile (LSP-16): A confirmatory factor analytic approach to scale validation and reliability estimation. International Journal of Listening, 24, 69–88.

Cheng, et. al. (2013). Two ways to the top: Evidence that dominance and prestige are distinct yet viable avenues to social rank and influence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104, 103–125.

Cluger, A. & Zaidel, K. (2013). Are listeners perceived as leaders? International Journal of Listening, 27 (2).

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