Listening and Leading

It is funny how the old expression “when the student is ready the teacher will appear” seems to always prove itself true time and time again. I posted a really interesting item from Deepak Chopra a week or so back titled “A Leader Must Look and Listen”. In that post, Mr. Chopra proposed that we must listen with more than our ears. He suggests a four step model which utilizes our senses, our mind, our heart and our soul. I think we could simplify this to being truly present while listening.

I got a personal reminder of this in the week following reading this impactful article. A colleague of mine is on his own Essential Journey and we often discuss the fundamentals of this model together. Earlier this week, however, we were locked in a tactical business discussion and both of us found me in a highly prescriptive mood which had me telling my colleague exactly what I thought he should be doing on a couple of situations we were dealing with.

Watch out! I bite!
Watch out! I bite!

I got what I deserved … a person that I respect that wasn’t too receptive to my approach and someone more anxious to break the connection than continue.

And this made me think about why sometimes I can show up with Mr. Chopra’s four faculties turned on and a response mechanism based in questions and possibilities in action, and the next time I just “tell it like I want it to be” without stopping to think about my impact on others.

Why does that happen? I’m the same guy every hour of every day aren’t I?

Well I guess I’m discovering that the answer to that question is both yes and no. Yes I’m the same guy with the same potential and gifts to give. And yet no, I don’t always show up with those gifts in the forefront. And I know why, at least for me. I have to be present and essentially quiet within myself in order to truly hear others. I know how to do this … it’s essentially a pause in activity and a conscious clearing of stress and other thought in order to engage totally with the person you are engaged with. So for scheduled meetings this is reasonable and manageable.

But what about the unexpected knock on the door or phone call? Am I always ready for those? That turns out to be the secret to this. We can’t control when the next connection will come, so I’m learning to try to always be in essential listening mode.

I think maintaining this state will be different for each of us. For me I have to be aware

A larger perspective helps us listen.
A larger perspective helps us listen.

of where my attention lives at the moment. Am I currently energized by the anticipation of a new connection or the discovery of a new possibility? Or am I absorbed by the crisis or problem that appeared yesterday? The former has me ready to show up present, and when the latter happens i tend to show up prescriptive.

According to Mr. Chopra “Leadership requires a sound basis inside yourself. If you can arrive at the point where looking and listening comes from your entire being, you are likely to be the leader in any situation, because you have set the groundwork even before you had the first follower.” So I’m finding I need to better heed my state of presence in the same way as I heed the time of day. It has to become a truth for me.

What about you? Do you have any experience with this concept of personal presence?

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Ian Munro @

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

9 thoughts on “Listening and Leading

  1. I like how you put this Ian — for me it is about turning up as the ‘higher’ me, listening from those frequencies I want to embody, versus, being present in the ‘lower’ me, that person who is ego driven, always proscribing through my adaptive self, as you put it, telling it like I want to be.

    And, like you, I find myself fluctuating in and out of the frequencies — possibly because when I’m feeling ‘less than’, when my ego self is telling me to protect, dive and dodge, I cannot remain open and vulnerable and conscious.

    Love this article! Thanks.

  2. I have read many articles and books on leadership and most of them leave me totally drained with the thoughts ‘I can’t do this’, ‘this puts too much on my shoulders’, ‘this requires too much perfectionism from me that i do not have’. …. until reading your articles.
    Never before have I read of a style as yours that requires me to simply be …… human……… complete with flaws and a soft underbelly of apprehension and a sense of sometimes (often) falling short; yet at the same time …. recognising my shortcomings of today in order to do something about it for a better tomorrow.
    Thanks for the inspiration. You are truly amazing and you are spreading the light!

    1. Elizabeth thank you so much for your kind words! I appreciate the support as I set down this path about what I believe about leadership. I d need to declare that I’m learning how to apply this along with you. I think I’ve always known this deep down, but was previously too afraid of the necessary vulnerability to put it into practice. For those who work with me … please hold me accountable to what I write!

  3. My teenage daughter is accutely sensitive and perceptive to whether her mom is authentically “present” or not when she is talking to me. I might be able to fake it when someone else is talking to me, but not with her. She truly knows if I’m present with all my senses, my mind, and my heart and my soul. She commands that I be100% engaged from my core……….and if I’m superficially “present” she calls my bluff. Simply put…she inspires me to be authentically “present” for her and for others….because if I am not I will miss more than the message, I will miss it’s relevance and she/they believe that I don’t care…and I truly do care 🙂

    1. Thanks for the contribution Marcia! It is interesting that the closer we re to someone the more they know and feel whether we are present and connected. Spouses, parents, children, good friends and close co- workers come to mind. It is also interesting that when we get “called on it” when not present we know it and want to become present.

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