The most important leadership skill?

Photo of a businessman and busineswoman in deep discussionAs a leader, which is more important: good people skills or good communication skills?

Perhaps they’re inseparable.

Perhaps it’s impossible to have good people skills without good communication skills – and if you’re a good communicator, you’re probably also good with people.

“Communication” is often viewed as the ability to convince, negotiate, explain, and so on.

Those are all great skills to have, but the key to all communication is listening. (I know. You’re not surprised, of course; listening is what most communication teachers talk about.)

But without tools and structured practice, listening is hard. The habit of listening in order to respond is ingrained in us all. We listen to hear what we want to hear – or, worse, we listen to hear what we want to argue about.

What’s needed is the skill to listen for true understanding.

This doesn’t mean you suddenly start agreeing with the other person. It doesn’t mean your priorities change. It doesn’t mean you abandon what you want or need. It doesn’t mean you change political parties or religious affiliations.

It just means that you gain the understanding necessary to influence someone.

Leadership starts with *true listening* - listening to understand - because understanding is necessary for influence. (Have you taken the quiz?)Click To Tweet

It’s almost impossible to influence someone without understanding them. And it’s definitely impossible to understand someone unless you’ve listened to them.

Which means it’s really hard to lead effectively if you don’t know how to listen well.

If you liked this post, you might like this video on communication styles and approaches.

And the article “Are you one of the 69%” (of managers uncomfortable communicating with their teams).

Or maybe you’re a speechifier?

Don’t forget to take the leadership communication quiz!