Servant Leadership: Hearing vs. Listening

Servant Leadership: Hearing vs. Listening

Every leader has a different style they use to foster a healthy team environment. One characteristic of a high-quality leader is the ability to serve the needs of their team members in order to enable growth and success. This is called Servant Leadership, which is the idea that a leader’s entire purpose is to eliminate obstacles that hold their team back, grow the weakness of each team member and encourage their individual strengths. One way a servant leader is different than other leaders is their ability to not just hear, but listen to the concerns of their team. Below, we offer a little more clarity on the difference between listening and hearing. Because while the concepts seem similar, they are different.

Hearing –

Hearing is the ability to perceive sounds by receiving vibrations through the ears. It is a physical ability that requires proper function of internal organs. Hearing is a passive bodily process, occurring subconsciously. You cannot help but hear the “click, click” of your coworkers typing on their computers or the office phone as it rings. A person’s natural ability to hear can impair their ability to listen.

Listening –

Listening requires a person to consciously analyze the sounds they hear to form meaning and is considered to be a skill rather than a physical ability. In order to listen well, you have to focus on a particular sound, like a coworker talking to you, more than other sounds you may hear. When focusing, you need to accurately interpret the message that your coworker is trying to give you. People often interpret a message incorrectly as if they are the person giving the message and this can lead to miscommunication. If you are the person receiving the message, try to respond with, “Thanks for sharing. This is what I heard you say…” and proceed with sharing your interpretation. Often the communicator might correct you by telling you that is not what they meant, and that’s okay! A great listener asks questions until they come to a common understanding with the communicator.

When you have developed the skill of great listening, you will be able to serve your team better. Since a great listener can walk away from a conversation with accurate information, you will find that your problem solving skills increase and in turn, your team’s overall productivity and satisfaction increase as well. For more leadership resources, feel free to check out our resource center here.