Great Leaders Listen First, Then Speak

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

The writers of the thirty-year-old series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, knew the ingredients of great leadership instinctively. Throughout the series, captain of the Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard, would host high-level meetings in the ship’s conference room. Everyone at the table had an opportunity to share their ideas. Picard would sit there, listening, taking everything in, before making a decision. 

The way he behaved eventually became so predictable that, as a viewer, you came to expect it. The technique was a core part of his leadership style. 

This approach is something that all great leaders get in the habit of doing. They listen to the voices of the people around them, take on board what they say, and then come to a final decision, based on their judgment. 

They see their followers, therefore, as salespeople. Individual members of the team pitch their ideas, make their case, and put forward their concerns. It is then up to the leader to either accept or reject them based on their merits. 

Leaders Learn All the Time

What’s interesting about all this, though, is that it doesn’t just apply to boardroom situations – leaders do it throughout their lives. They listen to people they trust and respect, incorporate their ideas into their thinking processes. 

It is not uncommon, for instance, for a business executive to approach a speakers bureau to get somebody to talk on a particular subject that is important to them and their enterprise. Often professional insight can make the difference between making the right call in a specific situation and not. 

Leaders also immerse themselves in content. Books, educational documentaries, podcasts, and radio shows all make up the daily intellectual diet of many people who want to get a handle on the way that the world works. Information is a vital source of nourishment that keeps their ideas sharp and their companies on the straight and narrow.

Leaders Show Their Comfort When They Listen

There’s another great advantage to listening from a fundamental, primal, and biological perspective – it allows leaders to show their comfort. 

Appearing comfortable as a leader is essential. It gives you an air of authority and allows the people you serve to place their confidence in you. 

Listening to people and cooly interpreting their arguments is the sign of somebody who is at ease with their position. You’re not snapping at people, interrupting them, or trying to shut them down. You’re never on the defensive. Instead, you take the information as it comes and then rises to the challenge. It is not your job to argue – you simply take things on board and then decide the best of your ability. Getting bogged down trying to prove people wrong, isn’t your job. Your role is to provide direction to confused colleagues

Speaking after you listen, therefore, is critical for your success as an executive or manager. It gives you the information you need to make a better decision while helping to establish your primal authority.


About the author /

Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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