Connection is the glue of leadership, bonding parts and revealing synergy. Power emanates from our connections with those around us and helps us to go beyond what we once thought possible. Gita Bellin wrote, “The impossible is possible when people align with you.”
Genuine connection requires authentic listening and authentic voice.
Most executives consider themselves to be good listeners. They can capture and comprehend a vast array of facts, data, and content from various sources, but they often miss the underlying fears, beliefs, and unspoken messages. Good listeners hear what is said; great listners hear the unsaid.
To become a great listener, you need to learn authentic listening. “In Finding Your Voice”, Larraine Matusak, writes, “When we want to see something better, we sometimes squint. So, if we want to hear something better, perhaps we should squint with our ears.” Squinting with our ears requires having empathy for the often unrevealed concerns of others. Dan Goleman affirms, “Empathy requires being able to read another’s emotions; at a higher level, it entails sensing and responding to a person’s unspoken concerns and feelings—understanding the issues or concerns that lie behind another’s feelings.”
Authentic listening requires going beyond what is” to penetrate the deeper reality. The result is genuine connection and relationship.
To engage in more authentic listening, observe these guiding principles:
- Honor what the person has to say, even if you don’t agree with it.
- Value his or her unique contribution and self-expression.
- Be open to learning from every situation and person.
- Give the gift of presence by giving your undivided attention.
- “Squint your ears” to hear the fears, concerns, and beliefs.
- Seek not to be understood, but to understand.
- Ask questions to clarify, open up possibilities, and uncover messages.
- Express appreciation, even when you don’t agree.
You may be an accomplished speaker. You can master a topic, get in front of a group, and deliver a message. Your audiences are often impressed by your brilliant analysis, depth of details, and command of data. However, something is missing. People feel informed but uninspired. You need to develop more authentic voice by balancing your analytical competence with more emotional competence. Good leaders master the art of communicating with their heads; great leaders master the art of communicating with heart and head.
An authentic voice genuinely connects with people. It can be defined as shared feeling, shared meaning, shared understanding, and shared mission. These words capture the process of leading from the inside out. It requires a life-long commitment to personal development and emotional engagement with others. To develop a more authentic voice, observe these guiding principles:
- Risk more openness, vulnerability, and emotion in your relationships.
- Explore the traumas and privileges of your life to connect to what is important to you.
- Remind others what is important to help them rise above circumstances.
- Beyond sharing concepts, facts and data to inform people, share stories to inspire people.
- Exhibit genuine energy and passion for what you care about.
- Balance the head and the heart, analysis and emotions.
- Be the mouthpiece for that still, quiet voice resonating in your heart.
- Remember that the heart can leap over barriers built by the mind. Measure the value of your legacy by the connection you add.