The power of generative listening | Learning & Development | Primeast

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

About the Author


Martin Carver

Martin Carver is a Director of Primeast. An experienced management consultant, facilitator and professional speaker based in the UK, working globally on leadership development and consulting assignments.

Martin uses his extensive , leadership, co-active coaching, team development and consultancy experience across a variety of industries and sectors. He is deeply passionate in supporting growth and learning, facilitating transformational and values-based leadership, developing people and organisations for sustainable results.

About the Author


Clive Wilson

Clive is an enthusiastic writer, keynote speaker, facilitator and Primeast coach, whose main focus is the purposeful alignment and leadership of individuals, teams, organisations and communities.

Experienced in working with leaders and groups of absolutely any size across the world, Clive is committed to organisational sustainability in service of a better world

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