Byron's Babbles

Expertise Vs. Listening


It seems that every leadership book has a part dedicated to listening. The Disciplined Leader (Manning, 2015) is no exception. It is an appropriate subject to keep at the forefront as we hone our leadership skills. In fact, when I asked our Focused Leader Academy participants to develop a list of expectations of great leaders, “listening” hit the graphic early in the discussion. It really comes down to the fact that we all want to be heard. So, it’s pretty simple: as leaders we need to listen. 


“There’s no doubt leaders like to talk. But great leaders know one of the keys to effective leadership is suppressing the innate desire to hear oneself speak to create that golden opportunity to listen more and talk less.” ~ John M. Manning

One of the points Manning (2015) made this week in lesson #14 was that, “I needed to listen more to others and talk less about myself. As soon as I started making this shift, I became much more aware of what was really going on around me—as if I were seeing work and life in a totally new light. I also learned many new things about people and the organization as a whole.” The key here is just not to listen instead of talking, but when talking making sure it’s saying the right words – not talking about ourselves or how to one-up what was just said. As Manning (2015) puts it, “Rather than give advice, they [disciplined leaders] ask smart questions, knowing that this coaching style is much more powerful for learning, developing, and generating sustainable change.” I so agree with this. In fact, one of my favorite questions after proposing an idea is to say: “Tell me why I am dumb for thinking this?” If you really mean it, and I always do, it will get a discussion flowing and great ideas/solutions fleshed out.

I just finished reading a great book by Kevin Cashman entitled Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life. In this book Cashman walks the reader/leader through seven mastery shifts he believes are necessary to become a leader for life. The sixth one applies to this post. Here it is:

“Change Mastery Shift 6: From Expertise Focus to Listening Focus. Effective leaders stay open and practice authentic listening to stay connected with others and to consider multiple, innovative solutions.” ~ Kevin Cashman

This makes so much sense. Have you ever been in a meeting and thought, “Boy, this person likes to hear themselves talk?” Really, all they are doing is trying to display expertise. But, as my dad used to say, “There is no statistical correlation between the amount of taking someone does and knowledge.” Pretty good thought! The key here is “authentic” listening. Really connecting and using what we are hearing and learning from others. I always try to approach listening like reading – I think about what I would be highlighting. This has helped me to be very reflective when listening to others. Others have always found it interesting that for as boisterous as I normally am, in meetings I am pretty quiet – it’s because I need to listen and take time to process. 

 What will you do in 2016 to become a more authentic listener?


Cashman, K. (2008) Leadership from the inside out: Becoming a leader for life.  San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Manning, J. (2015). The disciplined leader: 52 concise, powerful lessons. Oakland, CA: Barrett – Koehler Publishers, Inc.


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