The Power of Listening

"Greenleaf himself [the founding proponent of servant leadership] …referred to [listening] as being of greatest importance...a desire to want to listen to others, to listen more than speak" (Ferch et al. (Eds.), 2015, p. 80-81). Servant-leadership requires "a deep commitment to listening intently to others" (Ferch et al. (Eds.), 2015, p. 9). My mother always taught me, "Listen with understanding." Listening to others is a powerful leadership tool that moms constantly use and can exponentially improve through focused effort.

Here's a compelling example of how impactful listening to others can be. Kathy McGrath reported in her article published In The journal of perinatal education, "We can look to the research to tell us what factors contribute to whether or not a birth is experienced as primarily positive and satisfying or primarily negative and disappointing. As it turns out, it has less to do with the clinical aspects of the experience—the length of the labor, the number of interventions required, even the amount of pain she experienced— and more to do with the emotional aspects: how she was treated, whether or not she felt listened to and respected, whether or not she felt a sense of being in control (Hodnett, 2002 referenced in McGrath, 2007, p. 9). Moms who were listened to suffered less during labor, "Suffering in labor results from not being respected, not being listened to, not having basic needs met. Women in labor can be in a lot of pain and not be suffering. They can also be suffering while experiencing very little pain" (McGrath, 2007, p. 11).

How powerful is that? The simple act of listening impacted the entire experience of labor and birth! Imagine the far-reaching positive consequences of listening to a child, a friend, a spouse, or a neighbor. Listen first. So often, we want to talk and give advice when it would be better to listen. Also, in those situations when you are at a loss for how to help someone, listen. The simple act of listening changes another’s experience.


Ferch, S. R., Spears, L. C., McFarland, M., & Carey, M. R. (Eds.). (2015). Conversations on servant-leadership: Insights

McGrath, K. (2007). Finding the path. Journal of Perinatal Education, 16(2), 7–15, doi: 10.1624/105812407X192415