The Unexpected Way to Spot a Confident Leader

Humble listening is an aspiration achieved occasionally. But it’s exhausting.

The ability to listen requires remarkable confidence.

It takes confidence to:

  1. Adopt the posture of learner.
  2. Turn conversations toward others.
  3. Reject tendencies to boast, out-do, or one-up.

Listening is easy until you get serious about doing it.

4 practices of humble listeners:

#1. Humble listeners listen to listen, not compete.

#2. Humble listeners listen to show respect and connect. You can’t one-up and listen at the same time.

#3. Humble listeners habitually make conversations about others. 

#4. Humble listeners listen to experience the other person with all their joys, aspirations, frustrations, and accomplishments.

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

10 ways to strengthen your humble listening muscle:

  1. Engage in a three minute listening exercise with your team. The one rule is you can’t begin a sentence with ‘I’ while you’re the listener. Give everyone a chance to listen for three minutes. 
  2. Practice the no ‘I’ rule once in the morning and once in the afternoon. 
  3. Listen to ask a question. Curiosity is a compliment.
  4. Refocus when you notice your mind drifting. It’s likely you will need to bring your focus back every few seconds.
  5. Have two conversations a day where you stay focused on the other person until they turn the focus on you. Accept that some may never turn the focus toward you.
  6. Ask a question when someone asks you a question.
    • What would you like to know?
    • What brought that to mind?
    • What’s going on for you?
  7. Listen with the intent to show respect.
    • You must be proud.
    • That’s exciting.
    • How did you accomplish that?
  8. Listen with a calm spirit. Relax your breathing. Settle your mind. If you’re too busy to listen, you’re too busy to lead.
  9. Listen with an open heart. Judging isn’t listening. The answer to judging is learning.
  10. Listen for alternative viewpoints. “That’s a new thought. Tell me more.”

Tip: Hang around interesting people.

If leadership is about people – leading demands listening. The Scientific American reports that listening is a powerful tool of influence.

Don’t be fooled by bravado, a smooth tongue, or an aggressive posture. Real confidence is displayed with the ears, not the mouth.

Bonus: If you hope to bring value, open your ears.

What prevents leaders from listening?

How might leaders practice humble listening?

*I relax my 300 word limit on the weekends.