Do you remember the Verizon Phone Company’s commercial of “Can you hear me now?” While that “jingle” might be slightly funny, the question itself with regards to leadership is profound. How many times, do others have conversations with us, and they walk away wondering if they were ever heard?

One of many essential characteristics of great leadership is listening. It sounds simple, but… as you well know, some leaders simply do not listen, or they do not listen as to understand. I believe that there are times when people come to us, they have something to say. They want our attention, and they know real quick if they have it or not.


As I think about the different time’s people have wanted to speak with me, did I listen to hear? I can also ask that same question for when I wanted to be also heard. For those times when the answer was “no” in both cases, after hard lessons learned, I begin thinking of what type of listener leaders are and the type of listener I wanted to be.

To always keep it simple, I have three ideas about what type of ears a listener you may have…


When a leader has closed ears, it is tough for others to talk to them. They cannot ask questions or explain anything. It becomes more of a task and chore. The issue here is with the listener. It has nothing to do with the person or what is being said. I believe there is a direct correlation between leaders with closed ears having a closed heart.


We have all heard that notion of someone having selective hearing. Well, here it is. Leaders who have this, only listen to what they want to. They want to hear what is pleasing to them. Leaders like this will surround themselves with people who say the “right thing” and are basically “yes people.”


For a portion of my life, I listened to others with my brain (and I am still guilty of it at times). Listening this way means I would think of how I would respond to the other person instead of listening with my heart to truly hear what they were saying. This is the type of listening leader we should strive to be, listening with heart ears.

What type of listener are you with your leadership? If you do not know, odds are others do. Like me, I am sure each of you can name a leader whose listening style reflects one of the above.

If leaders care for their people, then having heart ears is the only way to listen. You and everyone around you will be better for it.


©2018 J Clay Norton

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