Looking for a Good Business Leader? Then Listen!

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Ask these three insight-gathering questions to help you identify leaders.

What makes a good leader?

There are many traits that contribute to being a good leader, because there are many different types of leaders for different types of circumstances. Three traits that good leaders often share include curiosity, their ability to manage adversity and their ability to listen.
When you are assessing potential leadership contributors for your business you may begin by looking at experience and qualifications, but that will only take you so far.

Understanding how to look beyond the surface is a great skill when you are trying to determine potential leadership contributors for your organization.

Do You Know How to Listen?

How often are you too busy to stop and really listen?

Research tells us that when we are in a good mood, smiling and enjoying ourselves, we are more inclined to pick out positive information and hear what we want. A sour note in a great musical performance is more easily overlooked when you are enjoying yourself.

Research also shows that when we are hungry, uncomfortable, or anxious, we are more prone to make decisions against and not for someone or something. This tells us that our surroundings and predisposition play a role both in what we attend to and how we decide. When you are gathering and assessing information, make the effort to understand what is going on behind your own scenes, so your unconscious filters are not your primary decision-making tools.

When you are looking to find a significant contributor to join your team, you must find a way to listen. Listen to what the person says, listen to what others say about him and then listen to what you are hearing.

Here are the 3 Questions:

As a busy leader, you may not believe you have the time to delve deeply into other people’s character traits. Ultimately, the process need not be time-consuming, if you learn a few key questions that help you gather insightful information quickly.

1. Why does the person learn?

A key question is no longer about whether this person is a life-long learner but about why he or she learns. There are those who learn out of necessity, those who learn out of curiosity and, of course, a combination of both. When talking with people, ask questions about what they have been learning and listen for the why. Someone who has been learning the latest skill or reading about the most recent trends within their specific field may be a great worker. However, if someone cannot demonstrate ongoing learning beyond that of necessity, he or she might not be ready to be a real contribution maker. Listen for those who tell you they learn because they are curious. Look for those who learn from outside their primary industry and who demonstrate they can apply information from many sources.

When curiosity and need combine, they can take people to new places. That is how innovation and adaptation begin.

2. How has the person managed hardship, adversity, and failure?

Not everyone has experienced profound adversity. However, those who have taken more risks or faced more challenges, whether personally or professionally, and were able to learn and grow from these experiences may be more resilient and ready to make key contributions. When talking about challenges, listen for those who tell you what they learned, not only technically but also about themselves and how they persevered. Their own self-awareness can benefit your organization.

If the person cannot identify insights into how he or she managed through hardship or adversity, he or she might be a good worker but not necessarily ready to make the next-level contribution you are seeking in a leader.

3. How well does the other person listen?

Often you hear that you can learn a lot about people by watching how they treat or speak about others, and there is good truth to that. If you observe someone treat a person poorly, you can gain insights into their values and beliefs. But this is not only a question about manners; it is also about listening skills.

Take the time to observe how people respond to questions from more junior staff. If they are dismissive or focus their attention on only senior staff, they may be unable to hear or inspire others. Smart leaders know that good ideas and suggestions can come from anywhere at any time. Inspiring leaders understand that everyone wants to have an opportunity to be heard so they can contribute.

As with any skills, listening and gathering insights takes practice. Before you ask these questions of others, consider them about yourself and then ask them of people you already know and trust.

By paying attention to a few key characteristics, you might just find the leader you need for your organization.

Related content:

The Qualities of Leadership- Part One 

10 Examples of Conscious Leadership for the 22nd Century

Small Business Leadership and Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace


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