What Every Leader Needs #10: Listen

*A blog series on what every leader needs to be effective in serving Christ* Listen up! I have heard this statement a lot in my life. If you are like me, you might struggle with listening. I might "hear" what is being said but I struggle with truly listening. One of the reasons is that I have a million thoughts flying through my mind and it is hard to throttle it down and listen. Listening it to be active in understanding the words, heart and desires of the person talking. Listening is not thinking of what to say next. My prayer is that God will change me into a better listener so that I can be a better leader for Him. In order to truly love people, we must stop what we are doing and listen. Listening in marriage is a key component for healthy communication. Me and my wife Cassidy learn that we have to put away the "smart" phones, move away from the laptop or TV and give undivided attention to one another. If we begin a bad process of being too "busy" to listen to one another, it will build an unhealthy relationship. The same applies to those in leadership. If people feel that we cannot truly listen to their needs, we will struggle to build close and trusting relationships.

Jesus was great at listening, even as a 12-year-old boy. Jesus surrounded Himself with leaders who would challenge his life (see Luke 2:52). Jesus reveals his desire to grow in wisdom, favor and stature. He wanted to find truth and not settle for the status quo. Listening is a key trait for a leader to learn at a young age in order to soak up wisdom and understanding throughout their life.

Few tips on listening:

- Give eye contact (don't multi-task when someone is talking to you) - Stay focused (don't find a "happy place", listen actively) - Wait for them to finish (don't cut them off, wait, be patient) - Ask questions (Don't assume you know what they mean, clarify by asking) - Respond with them in mind (Always focus on their needs before your needs). - Provide a safe place (Avoid saying, "Well, when I was your age I didn't struggle with that!" or "what you are dealing with is no big deal, just pray, read the Bible, trust God, no big deal.")

The heart of a leader must maintain a steady focus upon listening to God's Spirit to lead. A leader who is " upright" looks at situations with the mind and heart of God.  Leaders are to develop people into devoted followers of Christ. Listening is crucial. Listening is what Jesus did. Listen with grace, love and patience. Every leader needs it, especially me.