Teach & Serve III, No. 23 – I Hear You
January 17, 2018
Anyone with a well-developed auditory sense can listen. Leaders who want to serve the people with whom they work must hear.
In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to discuss myself and my leadership in detailed and reflective ways, asked questions by groups of dedicated educators who were most interested in my answers. I was both lucky and blessed to have been part of three separate search processes – processes looking to identify qualities in applicants for instructional leaders of schools. The conversations were long, intense, exciting and exhilarating one-and-all.
As I moved from conversation-to-conversation, process-to-process, I found myself listening to myself and reflecting on what I was saying in medias res which was a very interesting experience. After all, there are questions that good interview committees will be sure to ask and questions for which I very much needed to be prepared, prepared to give my most honest and authentic responses.
Inevitably, the question of how I would, as the instructional leader, listen to the staffs and the teachers and the students of each respective institution – was raised.
I replied that listening is a critical component of educational leadership, but not the most critical one. And, in fact, I found myself saying, on more than one occasion and working quickly to explain myself, how important it is that people feel as though they are heard.
Hang on, now… “feeling” as though one is heard does not actually indicate that someone has been heard.
Good leaders listen, sure. Good educational leaders are good at listening.
Exceptional educational leaders are exceptionally good at hearing.
Anyone with a well-developed auditory sense can listen. Leaders who want to serve the people with whom they work must hear. The must work at it and hone the skill. They must realize that hearing is so much more important than simply listening.
Hearing implies a desire to connect. Hearing implies wanting to comprehend. Hearing implies action.
Listening is passive. Someone who is listening is just there, in the room or the office, nodding, smiling, listening.
Hearing is active. Someone who is hearing is engaged, asking questions, offering support, giving suggestions.
Leaders who valuing hearing put away all distractions, close their laptops and shut down their tablets. They silence and set aside their phones and they hear.
When a true leader says “I hear you” the person to whom they say it does not just feel heard, she or he knows without a doubt she or he has been heard.
A leader does not just listen, a leader hears.
(oh, and a follow up on those conversations about formal educational leadership is coming…)