Why listening gives you the leading edge

Whether you are in a leadership role or not, if you find yourself doing more talking than listening, it would probably be in your best interest to read this article. There are no two ways about it. If you can grasp the skill of listening, you will have the leading edge.

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Do we truly know what it is to listen?

Great leaders are great listeners, and I am going to explain why.

Listening is dynamic in nature and requires you to exercise the skill of empathy, compassion and non-judgment. If we can demonstrate these skills, we are more likely to build a positive rapport, develop healthy working relationships, boost team morale and drive productivity and engagement.

Working onboard can be emotionally and physically exhausting, leading to strained relationships, conflict and causing crew turnover. It is therefore critically important to be tuned in to what is occurring in your environment. In a fast-paced industry, you are left with little time to manage or develop interpersonal relationships.

Suppose you can actively listen to your peers. In that case, you are in a better position to contribute towards a better understanding of your crew members, which, in turn, will enhance team cohesion and reduce the possibilities of disharmony and conflict.

Listening should be a mindful practice where you draw upon all your senses to truly understand the person’s fundamental needs.

Here are my top tips when it comes to mastering the art of listening

Consciously make every effort to engage in active listening. Active listening can be described as deep listening. It requires you to put yourself in their shoes and consider how things may be from their perspective.

When I have been involved in mediations, it is common for the receiver/listener to respond reactively to the feedback instead of sitting with the information and processing it accordingly. You’ll find that your responses will be less emotional when you allow yourself the space to listen, understand and clarify what you have heard.

Be mindful of your own verbal and non-verbal responses when listening. This includes facial expressions, body language (e.g. head and eye movements), gasps or sighs. So often, our non-verbal can be misconstrued.

Listening is key to developing self-awareness. We need to be actively asking for feedback if we want to become exceptional leaders. Access the art of mastering feedback here. It is impossible to be exceptional if we don’t listen.

Here are some key strategies for improving your communication skills

  • Be curious, ask open-ended questions to gain a deeper understanding of their perspective.
  • When you have received the information, summarise what you have heard. By reflecting and clarifying, you will reduce the risk of making any assumptions.
  • Be genuine and present when listening – make time for the individual, show that you care about what they say. This will make them feel valued and more engaged. People are one of the most valuable resources, and we need to give them the attention they deserve and not define them simply by their job roles.
  • Practising non-judgement, as hard as it can be at times, it is essential to cast our judgement aside and refrain from interrupting with our own opinion.
  • Always follow up – if someone has taken the courage to open up to you even if they don’t realise it themselves, always check in with them to show that you are reliable.


In a nutshell, do not become complacent in your leadership role. Just because you have been assigned a title doesn’t exempt you from further developing yourself as a leader. Leadership has a lot to do with understanding the needs of your team members, and you are only going to achieve this if you actively show genuine interest in them. 

Exceptional listening skills include putting your ego aside and, instead of wanting to be heard, seeking to understand. The crew will know that you have their best interest at heart if you focus entirely on listening to them. 

Listening involves more than just hearing. It requires you to recognise a shift in energy, natural behavioural tendencies, body language and facial expressions. It is essential to realise that nothing will remain static when working with people, meaning we constantly evolve, which keeps our interpersonal relationships dynamic. Ensure you have the leading edge and invest in your professional development.

Why listening gives you the leading edge