Posted on Jul 19, 2015
COL Mikel J. Burroughs
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The Most Important Leadership Skill
By Brigette Hyacinth
Director & Founder of MBA Caribbean Organization

Do you think that this is the most important leadership skill (why or why not)?

Listening is the most powerful skill a leader can master. Good listening skills in this digital era due to information overload and shortened attention span is fast becoming an endangered species.

Science has demonstrated that hearing impacts how we walk and that even our balance is influenced by how well we hear. So what we hear is crucial to how we live. The act of listening marks the first step in communication. In Hebrew thought, the seat of wisdom or of intelligence is located not in the brain but in the ears.

The Ear is divided into Three Parts Identical with 3 Levels of Listening:

Level 1. The External ear: Listening with the head - Passive Listening. The listener is concerned with processing of information.

Level 2. The Middle ear: Listening with the head and body - Active Listening. It involves paying and making nonverbal cues, appropriate to what is being said. It’s listening both mentally and physically.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.” ~Peter Drucker

Level 3. The Inner ear: Listening with the heart, head and body - Intuitive Listening. It calls for wisdom. This is crucial to gaining a complete understanding of situations. Without this full understanding, one can easily waste everyone’s time by solving the wrong problem or merely addressing a symptom, not the root cause.

Paul Bennett, the Chief Creative Officer at IDEO said the one piece of advice he wished he had known in his early twenties, was to focus on listening. Effective leaders learn that it is important to put aside distractions, to stop multi-tasking, and be truly “present” with people when speaking with them.

Employees want to be heard and they want to be respected. Listening transmits that kind of respect and builds trust. This leads to more motivated and committed team members.

Intuitive Listening and Self - Homing pigeons long have been known to fly hundreds of miles a day and arrive at their destination with amazing accuracy. In order to navigate, they use infra-sound, low-level background noise in the atmosphere to fly by “images” they hear, practically creating acoustic maps of the environment. Yet even the best homing pigeons at times have become disoriented, never returning to their starting point. The worst incident happened in England, when twenty thousand birds (valued at more than six hundred thousand dollars) never came back to their lofts.

That’s why it is important to never leave home without your moral compass. When faced with ethical dilemma, it serves as a navigator to steer you in the right direction. The temptations to take shortcuts can be overwhelming. Even the smartest of leaders have become disoriented and lost their way, never being able to get back on track. Listening includes listening to that "still inner small voice". If something is wrong, just don’t try to justify it. Even if you get away with it for a time, eventually the piper must be paid.

To achieve balance it is also recommended that you ingest The 3 Pills every Leader should take: Stillness, Silence and Solitude. Your ability to absorb crucial information decreases due to increased pressure, noise and demands. Distancing oneself from the distractions and taking the time to pause and reflect is essential to clear the mind of clutter.

It is only through silence and stillness that we can come to our thoughts in any meaningful way and from that spring take action we think best. Sadly we have banished solitude. There is no time to think, alone, intimately with who we are at our core." ~Brian Tolle Partner –The re-wired group
The brain acts as a computer, analyzing constant signals being sent its way. Based upon the data received from the inner ear, the brain then sends messages to the muscles of the body to maintain balance. Any disturbance in inner ear results in balance difficulties.

Organizations can succeed or fail according to the quality of their interactions. Poor communication comes with a high price tag. It accounts for businesses losing millions of dollars each year. That’s why it’s important for leaders to master the skill of “Lead with Listening.”

I would like to challenge you for the next week to make a concerted effort to listen more than you speak, practise intuitive listening and just see the benefits.

Here’s my other latest Leadership Post you may also be interested in:
Edited 4 y ago
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PO1 John Miller
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COL Mikel J. Burroughs
In all seriousness though, I'm kind of with CW2 Lindsey Muller on this. I hate to say that one attribute is more important than another in a well-rounded leader.

As SN Victoria Glover said: people often don't "listen." They may hear you but they don't "listen" to you. It's been my experience that often while you are speaking, those you are speaking to are thinking of what they're going to say next instead of "listening" to you. Or they respond to what you just said but they totally misunderstand what you are saying.

I often go through this with my wife, but I can compare it to any number of people from my Navy days. I will often get interrupted while speaking to either ask me questions on what I'm talking about (just frigging let me finish speaking before you ask questions, maybe I will answer them before you even need to ask) or start talking about something completely different.

Or only hearing part of what I'm saying: "Our left turn is coming up so you need to get into the left turn lane." "I'm already in the left lane!" "I said left TURN lane, TURN LANE. Not the regular lane. LISTEN..."
Or ask me questions about how my day was, something around the house and then not listening to my answer. As a result, asking me the same exact question after I finish talking.

I have self-diagnosed myself as having Asperger Syndrom, a mild (low end) form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (my daughter is Autistic and as a result of my research I've learned that many people have forms of ASD and don't even realize it). I bring this up because listening for me is a very intensive process. I cannot focus on multiple questions, meaning that if you're asking me something I need it to be one question at a time. Let me answer one question before you start in on the next. I've found that most people are like this, no matter how much they say they can "multitask." ONE QUESTION AT A TIME AND GIVE ME TIME TO ANSWER IT.
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COL Mikel J. Burroughs
COL Mikel J. Burroughs
>1 y
PO1 John Miller Great feedback - you are right a lot of individuals miss the message and critical data, because they are thinking about what they want to say - I believe this why we have a lot of problems in this country (Politics, Government, Race, Religion, etc.). We have people that aren't listening and grasping what is said. We have politicians that aren't listening to the people and they aren't even listening to what they are actually saying! Could we as a people and human race be better if we used our brainpower to effectively listen better, even through all the distractions? PVT James Strait what's your thought on that?
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PO1 John Miller
PO1 John Miller
>1 y
COL Mikel J. Burroughs You speak the truth regarding politics! I can only take so much of Fox News debates because it seems like they often try to shout each other down/interrupt instead of letting the person finish talking before arguing their own point or view.
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COL Mikel J. Burroughs
COL Mikel J. Burroughs
4 y
Cynthia Croft - Great feedback and excellent response Cynthia! I hope you received my email and will consider being a part of SAVL in the future. Thank you
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SFC Contract Administrator
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I like the 4Cs, Courage, Commitment, Candor, Competence as my most important leadership skills. I used these traits to go the distance and in my current job!
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SGT Brian Nile
SGT Brian Nile
>1 y
Very thoughtful Sarge!
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LTC Stephen F.
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At the tactical level the greatest leadership skill is the courage to lead by example coupled with the ability to motivate those who follow COL Mikel J. Burroughs. The higher up the leadershiop chain you are the ability to provide strategic direction and enough guidance for your subordinates to carry out the mission with minimal additional guidance if necessary is paramount. Personal courage and ability to motivate by example is also important.
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COL Mikel J. Burroughs
COL Mikel J. Burroughs
5 y
LTC Stephen F. Great feedback!
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