The Leadership Challenge: Active Listening – 3 Tips!

The Point: You might be listening, but do you really hear what your stakeholders are saying? At Tip of the Spear we frequently pose this question to the leaders we work with in our Business Advisory Services. The answers we receive are unfortunately shocking (and not in a good way!) Besides, what’s at stake if you don’t listen effectively as a leader? Only everything! So in this post, we set out to explore the leadership challenge of Active Listening and provide 3 tips… Enjoy!

Leadership Challenge Active Listening 3 Tips

Active Listening by Carl Rogers

Active listening or reflective listening was originally defined by noted psychologist Carl R. Rogers. The basics of active listening are to put ones concerns, attitudes and ideas to one-side while listening to others. The theory goes that without these distractions one will be able to observe not only the conscious signals displayed by others, but the unconscious ones as well. Therein you’ll be able to identify the true meaning behind the words that are being spoken.

Typically, active listening is reflected in the following interaction/behavior elements:

  • Providing your undivided attention
  • Encouraging the other party to continue
  • Restarting a potentially stalled conversation
  • Self-disclosing with the desire for reassurance
  • Knowledge improvement, confirmation, and/or correction
  • Connecting the dots in a loosely structured conversation
  • Insight improvement
  • Rapport building

I Listen, Therefore I Hear?

So active listening typically comes down to hearing, and therein a comprehension of what is happening/when. But more importantly than listening is equipping yourself to do something with what you just heard. With that in mind, a robust conversation can take place where ones actions are directly correlated with what was said, including clear comprehension not only of what was discussed, but what next steps will be.

So if so many leaders are listening, why do so many stakeholders feel that they are unheard?

3 Tips for Active Listening

I once participated in a seminar that had quite the magical leader presenting his view on everything active listening. He had three tips that I’ll share with you if you want to become a much more dynamic leader in the active listening space:

Active Listening Tip #3

You must focus intently on the speaker, so much so that you can see the color of their eyes clearly. Why is this important? The leader shared that if they maintained this level of focus, few distractions could interrupt their discussion.

Active Listening Tip #2

Repeat the keywords spoken internally to yourself three times. Why is this important? The leader shared that if he categorized the main topics by repeating them to themselves three times, a virtual card catalog of keywords was created for the conversation. A catalog that could be easily reviewed at a later date when called upon.

Active Listening Tip #1

You have to care. Why is this important? If you don’t care about the other person, the topic their speaking of, or about anything you will never retain anything with the conversation. It sounds simple, but Carl Rogers would have you put your own thoughts/concerns out of the way so as to be fully present in the given conversation.



In this post we’ve explored the leadership challenge of active listening and provided 3 tips to help you as a leader. Most leaders contend that their role as a leader is to provide direction to their stakeholders. In maintaining this “telling” strategy, they rarely focus on the importance of not only what is being said but who is saying it.


Sam Palazzolo

PS – If you like this post, I hope you’ll share it with a colleague. I know you’d also like a copy of my latest book, titled “Leading at the Tip of the Spear: The Leader.” In this work I explore the challenges of leading yourself as a leader (and review a roadmap for success). Here’s a link to the book on Amazon: