Lessons in Servant Leadership: What Did You Say?

Attentive men listening to their female colleague during discussion at business training

Watch almost any media talk show and the interviewer will often interrupt the guest trying to answer the question just posed.  This is such a common phenomenon that it is accepted behavior perhaps driven by ratings that come from on-air confrontation.  It is part of the culture!

Why ask the question if you’re only going to impose your view in the middle of an answer?  Perhaps guests are just convenient foils.

When briefing senior management, colloquial wisdom is to get to the point quickly and succinctly.  Words to live by and often put forth by this pundit.  Yet it is amazing how many of us violate the axiom by continuing to talk.

Truly listening with all senses is a rare skill.  How often have we been in a situation such as a sales call when the customer is interrupted by members of the sales team?

It is more difficult to close a deal when the preconceived notions of the seller override the buyer’s response.  Often in such a situation the client’s body language will give a clue as to her irritation when ‘talked over.’

The Power of Listening

So, you have made your pitch and are now sitting quietly waiting for the client to respond.  However, the so called ‘pregnant pause’ ensues.

The overwhelming desire is to ‘jump in’ and say something to break the silence.  But how does that close a deal when an offer has just been made?

Such behavior usually results in either prolonged negotiation or no deal.  The human inclination to talk can be irresistible.  A better behavior is to shut up and listen!

Some research shows that good listening is beneficial to both employees and their organizations.  However, barriers to better listening include:

  • Loss of Power—The appearance of weakness or not in control of the situation
  • Takes Time and Effort—Daily time pressures may negatively impact on the work product
  • Fear of Change—The speaker must refrain from making ‘foregone conclusions’ until a response is articulated

In addition to certain listening skills, a good listener must have the ‘intention’ to become one and resist the urge to interrupt.  This can become the framework for real dialogue and exchange of ideas and information.

Getting to Yes

In a TEDx Talk, the coauthor of the negotiation book, Getting to Yes discusses the value of listening in any human interaction.  The investment of less than 16 minutes of your time will be enlightening.  One suspects the almost 900,00 viewers would agree.

Our inherent nature to ‘rattle on’ distracts us from our goals.  We recently discussed the value of understanding the difference between Wants, Likes and Needs.

Truly listening and understanding your counterpart’s feelings (or deeply personal Needs) will unlock the key to getting a deal done—Yes!  This is a major component of  servant leadership.


Human (B)ehaviors in certain situations or (C)onditions establish (R)elationships between two or more parties.  We have been extending this construct for almost 25 years and it has broad applicability.  What kind of Relationship is established if one or more individuals do not listen to others?

How Well Do You Listen to Your Colleagues and Family Members and Do They Listen to You?

For More Information

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For more information on Cross Cultural Engagement, check out our Cross Cultural Serious Game

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