April 30


How to Practice Active Listening in a Leadership Role

By Andrew Martin

April 30, 2024

active listening in leadership

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as an entrepreneur it’s that being a great listener is one of the most underrated skills you can have as a business leader. More specifically, you need to master the art of active listening.

It’s not just about hearing what your team members, customers, and peers say, it’s about really, truly understanding their messages in depth.

Active listening in leadership can transform your interactions and increase the value you get from them by creating a supportive and collaborative environment.

In the guide below, I’m going to talk about what active listening is, why it’s vital for leaders, and provide some practical tips to enhance this skill.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening is an engaged and purposeful way of listening that requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond, and remember what is being said.

Unlike passive listening, where the listener might hear the words but not fully engage with them, active listening involves a conscious effort to absorb both the verbal and non-verbal cues expressed by the speaker.

  • Attention: Giving undivided attention to the speaker, without distractions.
  • Acknowledgment: Using gestures or words to show the speaker you’re engaged.
  • Response: Providing feedback that confirms understanding of the message.
  • Retention: Remembering key points of the conversation for future reference.

Why is Active Listening in Leadership So Important?

A great leader does way more than just give orders and make decisions. Real leadership requires building trust and fostering a supportive environment where everyone feels valued and heard.

Here’s why active listening is a cornerstone of effective leadership:

  • Enhances Team Dynamics: Active listening helps leaders understand the underlying concerns and aspirations of their team members, peers, and other stakeholders which can strengthen interpersonal relationships and build a loyal, engaged team.
  • Improves Decision-Making: By listening actively, leaders gather a broader range of information and diverse perspectives, leading to better, more informed decision-making.
  • Drives Innovation and Problem Solving: When leaders listen actively, they encourage open communication and idea-sharing, which are essential for innovation. Team members feel more comfortable proposing new ideas and offering advice when they believe their input is valued.

Challenges in Practicing Active Listening

While the benefits are clear, practicing active listening in leadership can be challenging for a number of reasons.

As entrepreneurs, we often have multiple demands on our attention, which can make it difficult to focus fully on the person speaking.

Another issue is that a lot of times, we have a bad tendency to listen with the intent to reply rather than to understand, missing crucial information and the speaker’s emotional tone.

Tips to Improve Active Listening Skills

  • Focus Fully on the Speaker: As entrepreneurs, we’re busy and have a million things vying for our attention, but it’s important to avoid distractions and dedicate your full attention to the conversation.
  • Show That You’re Listening: Use non-verbal cues like nodding, maintaining eye contact, and positive affirmations to show engagement.
  • Provide Feedback: Reflect on what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is,” and “Sounds like you are saying,” are great ways to reflect back and show that you’re actively listening to what’s being said.
  • Don’t Interrupt: Interrupting is a barrier to open communication. Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
  • Respond Appropriately: Be candid, open, and honest in your response. Assert your opinions respectfully and treat the other person in a way you think they would want to be treated.

Final Thoughts

Active listening in leadership fosters respect, trust, and collaboration.

By practicing and improving your active listening skills, you create an environment where mutual understanding and cooperation are the norms, helping you build a more productive and positive workplace while becoming a better, more successful business owner.

At Six Figure Dinners, we bring together entrepreneurs and founders in dynamic peer advisory groups, creating a supportive environment for sharing and addressing critical business challenges.

Our meetings are crafted to stimulate innovation, strengthen teamwork, and drive strategic growth. Members gain access to transformative insights and strategies—what we call “Six Figure Takeaways”—that help elevate their businesses to unprecedented levels.

Click here to discover more and join us as a guest at an upcoming event.

Andrew Martin

Andrew is Founder and CEO of Six Figure Dinners. He's also a co-owner of JARA Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in and operates businesses across various industries, including financial services, recruiting, digital media, and real estate. Prior to this, he owned and managed 11 Menchie's Frozen Yogurt locations and a Menchie's Food Truck, which he sold in 2014. Andrew's other investments mainly target small to mid-sized consumer industries.

He earned his MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management, specializing in Brand Management. Before pursuing his MBA, Andrew led a sales territory at The TREX Company in Boise, ID. Throughout his career, he has volunteered in various capacities, such as offering pro bono mediation services and assisting underprivileged families in improving their living situations.

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