“I already know how to listen!” told the executive to an invitation on ‘Active Listening Skill.’

‘NO ONE LISTENS!’–was the contrasting echo heard in his workgroup.

Listening is the most important of all leadership skills. However, the unfortunate truth is that most of us pay little attention to the quality of our listening, leaving a gap between “hearing” others and listening to them.

EarsIn his new book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, top executive coach Marshall Goldsmith writes, “80% of our success in learning from other people is based upon how well we listen.” Goldsmith calls listening the one skill that separates the great from the near-great. When we’re dating someone, we focus intently on what the other person has to say; the same goes when talking to our boss or a higher authority or pitching a new client. The difference is that the super-successful maintain that level of focus all the time. This is the unbelievably simple formula of a great leader and such simple formulas are available to any of us to become a super-successful leader simply by listening more and talking less.

In the Vedic literatures, the example for achieving excellence through listening is given of Maharaja Parikshit. Though Parikshit had only 7 more days to live, he took utmost care to hear very carefully from the spiritually exalted saint Sukhadeva Goswami for seven days continually. Parikshit expressed no desire to eat food, drink water or sleep during this period.

Generally, when another person is speaking, we “listen” at one of four levels: ignoring, pretending, selective listening, or attentive listening. We should be using the fifth, highest form of listening–empathic listening. Empathic listening is listening with intent to understand the other person’s frame of reference and feelings. It means you listen with your ears, your eyes and your heart. Radhanath Swami says whatever we are doing, we should do with our full heart, without any ulterior motive, with our full consciousness and then it becomes an offering of our love for God. So, it becomes pertinent, especially in our leadership roles that we shun the tendency to be preoccupied all the time and become present in the moment.

Stephen Covey in his book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ speaks about the importance of ‘Empathic Listening’ as the crux of effective communication in the section where he discusses the 5th Habit ‘Seek first to understand and then to be understood.’ How many of us listen to the other’s point of view before rattling off our own? Covey believes that the only way to establish communication as a leader is by becoming, in small part, the person you are listening to. The experience, standing for a moment in another’s shoes and seeing the world through their eyes, is something everyone is capable of, but most of us rarely (if ever) deliberately do. It takes time to listen empathically and practice to become adept at it, but the reward is a whole new level of communication and problem solving because the leader acquires the ability to see a situation simultaneously from multiple points of view. As a spiritual leader, the art of listening is even more important than the art of talking. When you hear out the other person, something beautiful happens. The other person senses that you value him/her and a bond of trust and faith is simultaneously created. This is the true path to inspirational leadership. Radhanath Swami says the fine art of leadership is that a spiritual leader does not see through his eyes but sees with his ears!

Experienced trainer on management Madelyn Burley-Allen identifies the following immediate tangible benefits from good listening:

A Bond of Respect. Genuine listening generates respect, rapport and trust between talker and listener. In particular, followers/employees like, and respond better to, leaders who they think are listening to them.

Productivity. In a work situation, productivity will be higher when the leader hears out the problems completely before ‘advice-giving’ begins.

Cooler Heads. Focusing on listening helps both the talker and the listener stay cool–and helps them cool down–when dealing with a crisis or discussing an emotionally charged topic.

Confidence. A leader who listens well will tend to have better self-esteem and self-image as they have more chance of winning the trust of their followers.

Accuracy. Better listening leads to better recollection of important facts and issues later on, resulting in fewer miscommunications and fewer mistakes. Thus, attention to good listening technique is even more important when complex issues are involved.

Published by Preethi Pandit

Preethi Pandit is an MBA by qualification and in her career of 10 years, she has represented corporates as head of HR and manager of large MNCs. She is a certified behavioral trainer and a coach as well. She quit the rat-race 5 years ago and ever since has actively taken up her flair for editing & writing as a full-time activity.

Join the Conversation


  1. It is so true that without listening properly we really cannot achieve anything in life, because it is the basis of a good leader.

  2. Many thanks for your nice comparisons between different authorities on Leadership and mostly importantly for including the points of view of Radhanath swami, who is very capable of leading the authorities on Leadership mentioned in this blog.

  3. A very informative and useful article. Thank you for sharing this:

    "Radhanath Swami says whatever we are doing, we should do with our full heart, without any ulterior motive, with our full consciousness and then it becomes an offering of our love for God."

  4. Attentive listening to the voices of others can solve most of our communication problems….shows how our minds have become so fleeting in this jet paced world. We do not have the time for others. Attentive listening will come if we cultivate spiritual qualities. Great post…thanks for sharing.

  5. Excellent article, we generally tend to forget the personal aspect of listening, Thanks for Reminding…..

  6. Very helpful article.Liked the concept of emphatic listening.Truly, in today's day and age most complexities could be solved only if one could listen!

  7. When we listen to the preachings of exalted personalities like HH Radhanath Swami, then the doors of real knowledge open.

  8. the article brings out nicely the point of how listening is more important than talking. i also liked radhanath swami's point on whatever we do we should do with absorption and without an ulterior motive. this principle applies to hearing others as well. we often either pretend, ignore or selectively hear. empathic listening is indispensable for maintaining good relationships both at the individual family level and also at the community level. thank you for the article

  9. Very useful article. Applicable for any leadership role and in fact to everyone as each one of us has a leadership role to play in different spheres

  10. The statement by Radhanath Swami paraphrases the intent of this well-written article – whatever we do we should do with our full heart. Not only will it be effective, and give the 4 immediate tangible benefits but will also help us be in the present.

  11. very useful arcticle giving practical realizations. Listening is the key in realizing our higher self.

  12. Very practical.Author has perfectly pointed out the benefits of attentive hearing.While reading this article only I could find that how a bad listener I am.This will definitely help me improve my listening ability in my day to life by which I can reap benefits mentioned in this article.Nice one thank you very much for such helping article.

  13. Listening is the most important of all skills, because if you listen properly then only you can speak the right thing.

  14. Very true, Listening first carefully and completely helps, also it checks us from more argument and listening that might come later.

  15. Virtues Of good listening are numerous. Empathetic listening is something if we could cultivate can not only give us success in our routine but will make a tangible course correction in the direction of our life.

    A exceptional habit to adopt.

  16. Very nice instructive article. Hearing is the first most qualification even in material fields. Thank you for article.

  17. This is a very important article and very timely in my life. Listening breeds trust from the other party even when you have no advice to give them. Even if they just feel as though their opinions and reasoning are heard and valued, the relationship between the leader and the follower naturally blossoms and a mutual respect is established.

  18. Very simple technique to get great success…Just listen carefully and try to understand other person’s view points. This helps us to a great extent. H H Radhanath Swami Maharaj has truely explained that a leader does not see through his eyes but sees with his ears!..wonderful..we must strive to learn to listen for spritual progress also..

  19. Wonderful points! We learn when we listen. So True! Practically demonstrated by Parikshith Maharaj who was a personification of attentive Listening and thus he was succesful.We should mark him as a role model for emulation to imbibe attentive listening habits

  20. Now listening is such an important virtue. If listening was only about taking info in and being forgetful about it the next moment without understanding the essence of it then it will only result in an distorted out put.

  21. Thank you for explaining the importance of good listening and how it helps in our spiritual life in understanding and making better relationships with others.

  22. As Radhanath Swami Maharaj puts it “If you think you already know, then no one can really teach you”.
    Majority of the people in this world as they grow up finish their academics, start thinking that we already know everything – be it material knowledge or spiritual knowledge. Such complacency & over confidence prevents them from emphatically lsitening to problems of others. So many problems in this world arise because people listen at one of the four levels of listening (ignoring, pretending, selective listening & active listening). But people forget that emphatic listening is the next level which can be attained by sincere practice.

    I would sincerely thank the author of this article for so beautifully blending principles of spirituality with those of management so that we know its practical utility in our daily lives.

  23. Fantastic article! When we listen the other person senses that we value him/her and a bond of trust and faith is simultaneously created.

  24. listening from the learned sages is the ancient oldest, first and foremost way of acquiring knowledge, that’s why Radhanath swami’s emphasizes on hearing

  25. Very nice article on the importance of listening which is the very most foundation of spiritual progress. Out of 9 ways to perform devotional service, attentive hearing is the first one. Also, among the offenses during chanting of the Holynames of God, attentive hearing is very important. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article.

  26. Listening is the most important of all leadership skills. This is really very true, nice article.

  27. In material or spiritual life, hearing is the most important aspect. We develop desire to want to go to say the US or moon by hearing. Similarly we can develop the desire to want to go to the kingdom of God also only by hearing from saints and scriptures

  28. Thank you very much for sharing such precise article on how important listening is in our lives as individuals & leaders ! Radhanath Swami’s statement that whatever we do should be done from heart is the essence of it !
    Hare Krishna !

  29. This article wonderfully establishes the importance of understanding the others point of view by using emphatic listening as a powerful tool to improve our relationship with others and emerge eventually as a natural leader. Thank you very much for this wonderful wonderful article.

  30. A very precise & complete article on listening !
    Thanks for sharing it !
    Hare Krishna !

  31. The age old adage of ‘Listen before you speak’ comes from the Vedic culture, and its importance is so nicely described in this article. Thank you.

  32. Listening is an art…those who know it are learning and leading the World…Very Nice Article..!

  33. The mind tricks me often. The stupid mind makes judgements instantly about someone who is speaking to me and the false ego is right there to tune the mind and say “I know better”. The Bible says “Judge not others.” It needs sincere spiritual practices to make us an empathic listener. I have failed several times. But this article is a big boost… Will keep in mind…. Thank You

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