There’s an article titled “Uncovering the Blind Spot of Leadership” in the latest issue of Leader to Leader magazine. Author C. Otto Scharmer writes about four different modes of listening for Leaders. I’ve provided excerpts below.
Those of you who have heard me speak know that I often frame the Leader in four dimensions – Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual. Along with Scharmer’s thoughts, I have added my own in the context of which dimensions a Leader listens from . . . .
Think about conversations you’ve already had today.
- Listening 1: Downloading — “Yeah, I know that already.” [This is] listening by reconfirming habitual judgments. When everything you hear confirms what you already know, you are listening by downloading.
Leaders largely just use their Physical Dimension at this level of ‘listening’ – ears and eyes.
- Listening 2: Factual – “Oh, interesting, look at that!” This type of listening is factual or object-focused: listening by paying attention to facts and to novel or disconfirming data. You switch off your inner voice of judgment and focus on what differs from what you already know. You let the data talk to you.
Here, in addition to ears and eyes, the Leader applies the logical processing of their mind, the Intellectual Dimension (the Head).
- Listening 3: Empathic – “Yes, I know exactly how you feel.” This deeper level of listening is empathic listening. When we are engaged in real dialogue and paying careful attention, we can become aware of a profound shift in the place from which our listening originates. . . . It requires an open heart to really feel how another feels. An open heart gives us the empathic capacity to connect directly with another person from within. When that happens, we enter new territory in the relationship; we forget about our own agenda and begin to see how the world appears through someone else’s eyes.
This requires the Leader’s Emotional Dimension (the Heart), in addition to the Physical and Intellectual.
- Listening 4: Generative – “I can’t express this in words . . . I feel more quiet and present and more my real self. I am connected to something larger than myself.” This level of listening requires us to access our open will – our capacity to connect to the highest . . . possibility that can emerge.
Here, in addition to the first three dimensions, the Leader must listen from his or her Spiritual core, the place where beliefs, values, purpose and the foundation of their character resides. This is often a tough place for Leaders to listen because it requires them to slow down, while the demands of business and the world continually call on them to respond instantly.
How do you stop and listen in a way that brings about new possibilities in the life of the business and the life of the Leader? For many, it only happens after a breakdown – a tragedy or cataclysmic event that stops the Leader in their tracks. For others, though, it occurs through disciplined and intentional “pausing” – to listen and learn at the deepest levels. (One of the joys and privileges of my life is to walk alongside and converse with Leaders who regularly slow down to listen at Levels 3 and 4.)
Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” At what level(s) of listening does this occur?
What type of listening is happening at your conference table? Your dinner table?
I would enjoy “hearing” your thoughts on this one.