5 Must-Know Listening Types, A Leader Needs To Know

July 4th, 2020 | By Madhu
5 Must-Know Listening Types, A Leader Needs To Know

Sou Desu Ka is a common phrase used by Japanese in almost every conversation.  It means “Oh, is that So”.  This phrase shows the curiosity people show in what the other person is saying. 

One of the things that I observed on my numerous trips to Japan in my corporate career before I became an executive coach is how people listen actively.They acknowledge what you are saying by using words like “hai” or “Ee”, which means: yes/ that’s right/ okay. They acknowledge and clarify doubts politely. They reply after the other person has finished speaking. They pause and reply. For people from other cultures, it may appear slow, but they are indeed actively listening. 

We all have a natural tendency to add value to every conversation. For some, being a leader is about making a point, offering a view, giving advice, or winning the conversation. Whenever any value is added, there is a sense of accomplishment than runs down the chest. Have you ever felt this?


Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

Stephen R. Covey
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. Click To Tweet


Have you experienced your team members not voicing out their views, agreeing to everything that you say, not coming out of with creative ideas, not owning up the work, not adding any value, and simply taking instructions? Then, it is time you reflect and explore how you are listening. If leadership is about inspiring people, how would you do it without listening to people? Below I have listed down 5 listening types you should understand to know your team better and to build better relationships with the team.


Types of listening to Understand Your Team Better

1. Ignoring:

Ignoring - Listening Types - CoachwithMadhu

Does this surprise you? When you are not interested in what the others have to say, or, when you are firm on your views and need no further inputs, you switch to this mode of listening. You tend to interrupt abruptly and make your point or just impatiently wait for the other person to finish. Whenever you are doing this, you are ignoring.

2. Pretended Listening:

Pretended Listening - Listening Types - coachwithmadhu

Physically present but mentally preoccupied. Sitting in a meeting with laptops open or checking your phone often are examples. When this form of listening is exhibited, the other person or the team feels that you are there because it is a protocol and you are not concerned.

3. Selective Listening:

Selective Listening - Listening Types - CoachwithMadhu

Your bias towards the person or the topic is clearly visible in this form of listening. If you are a selective listener, you will be hearing things that gives you comfort and happiness and your objective in a conversation is to drive your views.

4. Active Listening:

Active Listening - Listening types for Leaders - CoachwithMadhu

You are curious and listen to understand. You acknowledge, if needed paraphrase and inquire genuinely. You wait for the other person to finish or interrupt with permission. You process the information listened and speak. You also give space and silence.

5. Empathetic Listening:

Empathetic Listening - Listening Types for leaders - CoachwithMadhu

This is actively listening plus giving attention to the feelings, emotions, tone, pace, and use of language. This is a far superior form of listening as the other person feels that you are truly with them. You not only listen to what the person is saying, you listen to what is not said. You listen for things said in between the words.

When there is Empathetic listening, your team members, or the person in front of you feel that they are being valued. Trust is exhibited and build.   They are open to sharing views, ideas, and solutions.  They challenge objectively. When alternate views are presented, they are open. When a decision is taken, they own it. 

9 Tips to Build Your Listening Skills to Be a Great Leader

9 tips to build listening skills - coachwithmadhu

The art of listening can also be mastered with practice and persistence. Below are 9 tips that you can start doing to be a better listener

  • Acknowledge your current form of listening
  • Be present to the conversation fully. This means, avoid all possible distractions
  • Make eye contact, nod, smile. Acknowledge
  • If needed, summarise what the other person has said
  • Interrupt with permission
  • Be honest and authentic
  • Attempt to understand the underlying feeling or emotion
  • Be open and curious
  • If there is a contradictory view, explain with reasons

Importantly, rate yourself on your listening skill every day. Give yourself a true score and keep a check on how your score is improving over days.  This self-rating will keep you accountable and motivated.  

Listening as much is a skill is also a behaviour. For every behaviour there is recipient, give attention to how your behaviour is impacting the receipt and the business result.


Go ahead be the listener you want to be!! 

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Madhu Kanna - Certified Executive Coach | Leadership coach

Madhu Kanna

I am a Certified Executive Coach and I work with leaders to help them play at their full potential!!

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