The power of generative listening
Author: Clive Wilson
Progressive organizations are discovering that their leaders have more impact when they serve their inspiring corporate purpose faithfully and collaboratively, rather than pushing their personal sense of direction.
For many leaders, this requires a significant shift in mindset.
It is a shift away from being certain of the best way forward, and taking ownership of that direction. It is a shift towards greater humility in the knowledge that they don't have all the answers and that, in engaging others in support of a shared purpose, a more powerful sense of direction emerges. Fundamentally it is a shift away from assertiveness and towards listening to different perspectives, synthesising and facilitating the engagement of others.
One of the most powerful examples of this is told in Ernesto Sirolli's excellent book on economic development, "Ripples from the Zambezi". To get a taste of Sirolli's logic and emphasis on the power of listening, check out his TEDx talk where he explains how failing to listen during well-meaning attempts to feed a community resulted in nothing more than breakfast for hungry hippos!
Truly purposeful leaders understand that their role is to serve the emergence and delivery of a compelling purpose. In doing so they move from a closed style of listening, where they only hear what supports their personal world-view, to one that is open to new data, understands and tunes into the perspectives of others, and ultimately is able to sense the emergence of a new future that is effectively co-created.
Otto Scharmer, author of "Theory-U", describes this form of listening as "generative" and explains the journey to being proficient on YouTube . Generative listening is something that is difficult to learn from a book or teach in a traditional classroom. However, experiential learning, systems thinking and immersion-style development offer a diverse range of opportunities to put leaders into situations where they must serve a purpose that is bigger than they are, and where they are required to work with others who may hold very different views to their own.
Further reading from Primeast Insights:
Get the most from immersive and experiential learning techniques by Russell Evans
The power of immersion in vertical leadership development by Clive Wilson
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