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The one superpower every great school leader has


“The bottom line is this: if you want to engage your employees at a whole new level, if you want to become a person of greater influence, and if you want to discover a new kind of power — listen”. Greg McKeowan

We’ve all heard of active listening. It’s what we all do, right? We would never not listen to our colleagues or our employees. We hear every word they say, don’t we? But do we really listen? When you’re in the business of developing the next generation of leaders it’s crucial to teach them how you listen, not just hear, but to fully understand in order to generate new ideas.

A person of greater influence

You can help your future leaders “become a person of greater influence’ by teaching them ‘how to’ really listen using these 5 tips for generative listening.

1.  Listen to words – what words are you hearing? Words of happiness or optimism? Words of frustration and pessimism? Words related to thinking, doing or feeling? Visual, auditory or kinaesthetic descriptions? These words give you cues to how the speaker is thinking about the situation and themselves.

2.  Listen to ‘the story’ – which one of the 7 basic plots are you hearing? Is it a hopeful or adventurous story? Is it sad and tragic? Or is it a light-hearted comedy? How does this story relate to the story the speaker is creating for himself or herself?

3.  Listen for feelings and emotions – How does the speaker feel? What emotional words are they using? Listen with more than your ears. How does this story make you feel? Are you eager to hear more, or can’t you wait to escape from this horrendous tale?

4.  Listen for the will or intention to act – What’s going to happen? Will anything change? What is the storyteller going to do next? What gives an indication of movement or ‘stuckness’? Will anything change?

5.  Listen for what is not said – What words are not uttered? What is the speaker avoiding saying? What are they sidestepping or evading?

Master listener

Why do great leaders need to be great listeners? Quite simply, the really great leaders, the memorable leaders we all talk about, transform. They transform businesses, industries, countries, sometimes even the world. The way they do it is by helping others to transform.

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists; when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Lao Tsu

This can only happen if the focus of the leader moves from self to others.

A new kind of power

Move the attention from the listener to the speaker. That’s a necessary before you can help others to realise their own potential and generate their own ideas.

So when you want to help future leaders discover a ‘new kind of power’ and become a person of ‘greater influence’, help them master the one superpower every great leader possesses; generative listening.


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