In the old days the “command and control” model of leadership ruled supreme.

Leaders were expected to have all the answers — or at least to look and act as if they had all the answers.

Leaders had a goal and a strategy for accomplishing it. All they had to do was figure out how to get others to fall into line behind them. They wanted followers, not collaborators, compliance, not creativity. They did a lot of talking and not much listening.

But today’s workplace demands a more flexible, more collaborative model of leadership.

“In the high tech, globally wired, digital world we live in…[l]eaders who can release the brain power of their staff, who can energize the know-how and creativity of their work force, are the only ones who can be sure to be in the phone book within two years.”
– Warren Bennis

Today’s leaders don’t have all the answers. (How can they?) But they know how to find the answers and, more importantly, they know how to help others find the answers.

Leaders today are listeners. They listen up, down, and all around their organization. They listen in order to:

  • Pick up on problems before they get out of hand
  • Uncover the causes of miscommunication and conflict
  • Understand people’s motives, values, and feelings
  • Build rapport and mutual respect
  • Discover trends that drive the way business gets done
  • Gather and evaluate ideas
  • Generate solutions

The kind of listening that leaders do requires a new mindset — a combination of humility (“I don’t know everything”) and confidence (“I’m smart enough to learn”). It brings out the best in other people, recognizing and valuing their experience. And it creates the kind of collaboration and energy that drives a winning organization.

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Chris Witt is an executive speech coach who works with executives and business leaders who want to improve their presentation skills. He believes that one one of the best ways to improve how you speak is to improve the quality of your listening. Witt Communications, based in San Diego, offers speeches and programs to help executives speak more effectively.

For more information about how you might benefit, contact us.