When great leaders speak though – people do listen. The reason they listen is most likely not just about power, but rather that in past times the leader has been a great listener. They have been willing to give credibility to the ideas and needs of those around them.
When teaching young people to listen we emphasize the need to keep their eyes open and on the person who is talking to them. They need to show interest and understanding of what is being said by nodding their head, asking questions and be able to repeat back to the person the gist of what was said.
They must keep their ears open listening not just to the words being spoken, but the inflection in the voice, listening for deeper meanings – again asking questions to be sure that you really understand the position, question or issue that the person would like to address.
Finally they must learn to keep their mouths closed – not talking over the other person or interrupting them to express their own ideas. I love the way the American Indians had a “talking stick” that others did not speak until the person holding the talking stick gave it up.
One of the biggest distractions we can have as a listener is what is going on in our own head. Thinking of what we are going to say, how we might prove the other person wrong or present our ideas in a stronger manner is not good listening, not it is not good leadership. Leadership requires that we are willing to hear and meet the needs of those in our sphere of influence. Failure to do so may eliminate our ability to lead those in an effective manner.