Humility & The Art of Listening

Executive Presence: Humility


The Art of Listening 


Do you know someone that always tells stories about themselves? Not in that, “I can relate to this” kind of storytelling, but the storytelling to emphasize their life and their thoughts are superior. This reflects a feeling that they may believe that others are beneath them. People call that arrogance. Arrogance can be reflected in other ways, too.

Let’s explore this scenario…

Case Study: Kara & Jesse

Kara, one of Jesse’s employees, approaches him in the hall, requesting a meeting to discuss her performance evaluation.

Kara: Hello Jesse. I would like some time with you to talk about some of the low marks on my performance evaluation. Can we meet this week?

Jesse: Kara, I am an experienced leader. I learned from the best. Your evaluation was very detailed. It was ‘by the book’. I’m not sure what else there would be to discuss. I think you should start working on getting better in those areas.

Kara: If you could spare some time, I have specific questions about your expectations.

Jesse: Kara, I just need you to meet the standards. I have made Operations very successful. I do not have time to go over this. We need employees that can execute perfectly. Can you do that?

What if Jesse had spent more time listening, and less time talking? When someone lives right in the middle of their own thoughts, you have the Phenomenon of Centricity. Jesse is prideful because of what he thinks he has accomplished. He fails to listen for understanding because he is blinded by his own thoughts.

Listening is something very few people do well; yet it’s vitally important. Everyone wants to be heard. As a result, a good listener gets immense respect. They are seen as genuine. They are seen as humble.

Why listen? You listen to others to gain mutual understanding. You have to think about this constantly. Listening requires your full attention. It is hard. When you fail to work at it, you will miss important opportunities to show true leadership.

Think carefully for a minute about these three statements. Say them out loud. Take a moment to realize the truth in them.

Once you become a good listener, you have automatically increased your humility. Because you no longer have the answer to everything, you really hear what people are telling you.

Until you get to that point, you’ll need to remember techniques, and ‘act’ like you are listening well. Will people believe you? Yes… people believe what you show them. When you’re striving for something, when you act like the person you want to be, your people will ‘buy in’ to you and to your goal. Picture yourself listening well and you’ll become a good listener. At first, you might have to work at it. Then it becomes part of who you are. It becomes authentic genuine, and truthful.


This is an excerpt from DeCoffette Ward & Brenda Corbett’s upcoming Executive Presence: Humility workbook. Stay tuned for the release of this book in June 2020.

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