While powerful leaders are often thought of as charismatic and dominant, data shows that introverted leaders are often just as, if not more, effective than their more gregarious counterparts. One advantageous characteristic of more introverted leaders is their listening abilities. Whether you’re a natural listener or need to work on it, read on for insights into why it’s important to really hear—and retain—what your colleagues and peers are telling you.
Leaders will inevitably encounter stressful or tense circumstances since it’s naturally a part of the job, and practicing listening can actually help you diffuse the situation and make a more well-thought out decision. Rather than practicing brute force if something isn’t going your way, listening to your team can often reveal insights you wouldn’t otherwise happen upon, as well as give you some time to collect your thoughts and any emotions about the situation—ultimately leading to a more level-headed decision.
Keeping an ear to the ground can help leaders know what’s coming, as employees who feel heard are not only likely to continue keeping their managers in the loop, but also more apt to share their feelings and other information that might help to make better leadership decisions. While ineffective listeners can risk missing important intel in exchange for pushing their own agendas, those who take the time to understand their employees’ concerns can often foresee problems before they happen.
Listening can be powerful not only in helping you make better decisions, but also because it’ll secure buy-in and respect from your team. While it’s important for leaders to set clear boundaries between themselves and their employees, it’s just as important for everyone to feel part of a team—and that team needs to include you. Leaders who ignore their team’s thoughts risk burning bridges and breaking down trust, whereas those who learn to listen earnestly are more likely to gain loyalty.
While listening is important for the reasons mentioned above and many others, good leaders also know when and when not to act on what they hear. Having a good sense of your team members’ frustrations and limitations can make you better-equipped to help them, but strong leaders understand that consensus-based decision-making isn’t always preferable—and know how to listen effectively without making undeliverable promises in response to what they’re hearing.