I’ve been think a lot lately about collective leadership (….I don’t get out that much….) and how you create senior teams to take on collective leadership for their businesses.
And this in turn started me thinking about the traits that I believe are important in leadership (lets forget all the gurus for now because we know they all pretty much say the same thing and once you’ve read one you’ve read them all), the elements that really differentiate. One keeps on coming back into my mind. Listening.
To really listen to people is exhausting and takes a huge amount of practice. I know that often I think I know what someone is saying long before they have reached the end. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t but I will never be sure as I wasn’t listening, I was thinking. How many times have you been speaking on the phone and typing an email at the same time? Or talking with a colleague whilst thinking about the paper that you need to do, the time left before you need to go for the train or simply what to have for dinner?
It struck me that when we really listen, really engage we can pick up messages that were perhaps not intended, but are maybe truer than the words being used. There is a great book called The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway in which one of the main characters is talking about his training in some far fetched martial art. But the point being he talks about the power of smell in assessing a situation. Now I’m not suggesting we sniff people…..or indeed lick them as Henry Berry seems to endorse! But there is an art to really being present and in tune with the person that we are talking with or listening to.
So how can we instill this in a leadership team where so much value is placed on output and having a view? I’m not entirely sure at the moment (I do have some life despite my previous comment) but if I find out I’ll be sure to share and if you know then please enlighten.