Life purpose

by Timothy Maurice Webster

Leadership conferences and women's events fill our annual calendars, offering leaders the chance to acquire competitive or practical skills. Agendas are jam packed with upskilling talks and exercises, ranging from learning to build your brand to finding a work life balance. However, rarely will you find a workshop dedicated to listening. Male or female, a listening leader is rare to come by Studies show very few people, inside or outside the office, actually listen. How many times have you stood in a meeting and said: "But you're not listening!" \ then your opinions are simply side swept? Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Free Press), lamented: "Most people don't listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply" Many confuse listening with hearing. I \vas reminded of just how fundamentally different the two are by Tracey Swanepoel's book, The Leadership Riptide and How to Escape (BizNews Online Services). Swanepoel, a leadership and marketing authority spent the formative years of her career in branding at Ogilvy & Mather and after her work within the Harmony Gold Mining Company, where she gained fascinating insights, wrote a book about corporate leadership, both internally and externally The Leadership Riptide goes behind the scenes, offering compelling cases and conversations from an insider's perspective. As a senior advisor to some of the most powerful executives in the world, Swanepoel's observed that listening is an undervalued tool that must be revisited. In the chapter titled "Knowing Yourself", she advocates "self" as the best place to start acquiring this skill. With social media bombarding our senses and the general pace of life speeding up, we ignore ourselves more than ever before. Swanepoel implores: "Fake listening is an epidemic, the result of us not listening to ourselves or being aware of our own voice. We hear multiple internal voices talking over each other, which makes the focused attention required to listen to anyone else impossible... This means that real empathy and compassion are drowned out. Really listening to another person requires stillness of the soul, a quietness of the mind an empty space where you can hold the other person. This kind of listening is a super power." It requires selflessness to find that empty space. Much like peak- hour traffic, space is rare when you're peaking in your leadership journey It's not a weakness to make room for someone else's issues and concerns. Most people are weak precisely because they don't listen. The super powers Swanepoel alludes to can only come when you stockpile ammunition from another's soul. If you hope to shoot down doubt and confusion in order to lead with clarity and conviction, you must align your messaging with the highest concerns of those who follow you. A leader who lacks the benefit of insight emanating from the depths of other people's souls will find themselves extremely vulnerable and powerless. Swanepoel's own power comes from using the tools she shares. Listening and paying attention may not be on offer on the registration template at the next conference you attend, but it's the one skill that will yield superwoman like results. For more on Swanepoel's book, visit: www.thinkspiration.co.za Enjoy your new-found power!

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