Listen to Serve: Servant Leadership and the Practice of Effective Listening

Jessica Zisaby Jessica Zisa
Freelance Writer & Social Media Intern
Marylhurst Center for Servant Leadership
Thursday, June 20, 2013


Hands ListenIn a world driven by communication and a desire to connect, it is easy to get lost in a fog of information and take the act of listening for granted. Whether it be face-to-face or online, listening is the foundation of communication and the key to building strong relationships. With the instancy of social media and email we have become quite conscious of the need to respond rapidly to communication and make our voice heard. But are we aware of opportunities to be still and engage as effective listeners?

Servant leadership reminds us of the importance of listening, and the practice of mindfulness. Listening allows us to look within ourselves and become aware of the barriers that inhibit our ability to listen effectively. It helps us discern information that leads to understanding, rather than judgment, which in turn leads to derision. We all have personal biases and prejudices even if we’d like to believe otherwise. Listening helps us serve by exposing prejudices that filter select words, warp messages, and prevent us from considering another point of view. I had a great teacher who once said she loved to discover a prejudice because then she could work to overcome it. I deeply admire this mindset because it accepts the fact that we don’t always listen, we’re not always open-minded, yet we have the power to consciously change how we listen and interact with others.

As servant-leaders, our calling to serve is dependent upon our ability to listen and perceive the needs of others outside our own. We serve by creating a space where individual voices can grow and be heard, and where fear-based leadership is overcome. We serve others when we encourage the practice of mindfulness and listening to oneself, because when one’s inner voice is depleted it is nearly impossible to be receptive. As servant-leaders we have an obligation to continually remind one another of the importance to develop better listening hygiene.

Servant leadership becomes a living and breathing way of life when we respect and value the act of listening that allows us to increase our knowledge base and be able to empathize with another point of view. Our lives as servant-leaders begin when we tune in to one another and share communication in a space of reciprocity.

What are some of the ways that servant leadership helps us become better listeners? How do you sort through the fog of distractions and personal biases in order to listen?

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  • Francis Karanja

    A great resource center aimed at transforming the World by providing a real solution to the many challenges being experienced in the leadership discipline. God Bless the great team.

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