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In Leadership You Listen –Why?

In Leadership You Listen –Why?

By Mary Verstraete

Many people would respond, "That's easy to answer, I listen to understand what the person is saying." True, yet there is more to listening than just understanding for yourself. Example: If you have a direct report, aren't you listening to help and support the person with an attitude of serving the person needs?

This kind of listening is called "active listening" where you don't passively absorb the words that are spoken, but are actively grasping the facts and the feelings in what is being said. You don't judge what the person is saying. You're not forming answers and responses while the person is talking to be able to convey the message, "I'm interested in you as a person, and I think that what you feel is important. I respect your thoughts, and even if I don't agree with you, I know they are valid for you. I'm not trying to change you or evaluate you. I think you are worth listening to and I want you to know that I'm the kind of person you can talk to."


What are the results from active listening?

  • Opens the door for you to engage in a person's emotional world and see the situation from his or her perspective.
  • Helps the person tell their “problem story” in a way that reframes the problem as being solvable.
  • Highlights the person's resources and ability to define and move toward a solution.
  • Builds a collaborative relationship with you to help identify and construct possible solutions and delineate a range of goals and options.
  • Facilitates the development and enactment of action plans to achieve those goals.

This art and skill of active listening begins with:

  1. Genuinely respecting the worth of the person that is talking to you.
  2. Compassion–being concerned beyond yourself.
  3. Being trustworthy, the cornerstone of listening.

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have succeeded.
–Maya Angelou, American autobiographer and poet.

Active listening is a skill that takes time and practice and investment. However, skills alone will not make you an effective listener. Skills can be learned, but caring about others is a matter of the heart. Skills plus heart will equal masterful listening.


Mary is president and cofounder of the Center for Coaching Excellence. She is a  leadership consultant and writes and trains on effective leadership conversations.

CCE training was personally valuable. I was given information, a chance to practice the information, and tools to reflect on the information.

Heather Verstraete
Educational Coach