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How to Listen Like a Leader…Not a Know-It-All (and other great tips on how to earn the title of “Mentor”)

What qualities do we look for in a leader? What does it mean to create good in the world? Why is Mentor such a powerful word, and why do we treat it as a gift? What is it that jumps us to judgment instead of truly seeing the layered, gifted, complex human being standing in front of us?

We’re excited to share a podcast that just dropped. The world is hungry for the kind of thought leadership that will take us into a different paradigm. We thought you might be, too.

Listen as Chiz unpacks some big questions with podcast host Denise Cooper on episode 48 of Closing the Gap. Titled “Reimagining Leadership for the 21st Century Workplace”, this 40-minute conversation explores leadership tools ranging from the practical to the deeply transformational.

Denise and Chiz talk about the qualities of great leaders, how we can best develop the next generation of leaders, why the word Mentor needs to mean something bigger, the key mistakes leaders make—including his own past habit of blowing up meetings with gunslinger words—and how, for leaders, mastering our ability to listen deeply and without judgment delivers a far greater impact on the world than having the right answers.

Catch a sneak preview here and the entire podcast here.

Key talking points:
  • You should be developing leaders everywhere. Every generation has the responsibility to identify and develop, in the following generations, those people that are going to create the most good.
  • Leaders must be self-aware. People create the most good by being highly aware of themselves and the impact that they have on others.
  • Leaders are able to occupy the ground. There’s something about the way they conduct themselves; even when things are moving sideways they’re always solid and steady, and can maintain poise under pressure.
  • Leaders affect the field. As humans, we watch each other—especially our leaders. The things they say and the things they do. We pick up on little signals about who people really are. Leaders sometimes forget how much people are watching them.
  • We call particularly potent leaders Mentors.
  • Mentor is a gift word. Somebody else gets to choose whether they refer to us as a Mentor. The word does stronger work  in the world if we keep it on the shelf with the other special gift words.
  • The goal is to build in others the capacity to do their best work as humans. This begins with listening, asking questions, and remembering that every human standing before you has incredible potential in their set of unique abilities.
  • Your conduct determines everything. It creates an atmosphere inside others, and they make this mean something about themselves—and you. If you aren’t present and attentive, if you’re tired or frustrated or otherwise not managing your energy, the other person’s brain will create a story around it.
  • Understanding is not the same as agreeing. From Anne-Marie’s work in conflict resolution, we’ve learned that we can hold space to listen without having to feel like we are in agreement. Ask yourself: Am I a big enough person to put the effort in to help my opponent be more articulate than they’ve ever been before?
  • You don’t need to be right. If you craft the kinds of questions that allow someone to explain their thinking, you’ll create the conditions for them to hold space for you to articulate yours.
  • You can’t rely on Bruce Willis one-liners for exemplary leadership. At least, it didn’t work out for Chiz.
  • There is no one truth. Instead, seek shared understanding. That starts with understanding others’ points of view, and not jumping to judgment. We can’t know the conditions of another person’s situation: their pressures, their fears, their worldview, the stories they’ve developed, the beliefs that drive their operating systems. Judgment is tricky territory full of flawed thinking.
  • Take all the information you can from success, and from failure.
  • Emotions are information. Emotion is not the enemy. Keeping the emotion out of leadership is never a winning strategy. Our emotions are the most amazing radar system that we have. And we should pay attention to that.
  • We’re dying to be seen and heard and understood. Life is really hard. It damages people. It makes them protect themselves from ever being hurt that way again. Mastering our tendency to judge helps us begin to understand that there’s humanity even in the people that you’re shaking your head at.

Skill up your listening in our Opportunity in Conflict™ open course, offered several times a year.