"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does." James 1:19-25
There is an old story where a student comes to the great philosopher Socrates to be discipled by him. When this young student came to Socrates, he kept talking and talking and talking, so that Socrates could not get a word in edgewise. Socrates had to put his hand over the student's mouth and say "I'm going to have to charge you twice." The student asked "why?" Socrates said, "in order to make you a great leader, I will have to teach you two disciplines. First you need to learn how to hold your tongue before you can learn the second discipline. And second you will need to learn how to use your tongue correctly."
Greek philosophy put a very high premium on elegant speech, and Socrates was the best of them all. But he knew very well you can not speak until you can listen. The early Christian community, as it was facing persecution, knew that to be a support and leader, it must listen and to progress in spiritual growth, the Christian and, especially, the leader, must be willing to listen. That as a follower of the Lord, we have to listen to his Word, and to be a leader, we must also listen to the people in our care. How we listen shows where our interests are and our health. Are we mirroring Christ's character and grace or just our personal needs? And the fruit that flows from listening is the growth and spiritual maturity that leads to godly action.
Listening is the embodiment of leadership, not the last and least of the characteristics, but a key integral aspect of all of them. To be an effectual leader, you must know how to listen. You can look upon it as a form of support structure on the foundation of the Lord where all the leadership aspects are part of the building of a leader. Listening makes up the frame that all the structure is built on. Without the frame and without a skeleton, our bodies and houses will limp and fall to destruction. Without the support of listening and caring, a leader will fall limp and surely fail, even if he is following the rest of the characteristics well.
I like to joke with my wife. When she tells me that I'm not listening, I respond by saying "I'm listening but I just did not remember what you said." From birth to death, we have the need to be listened to. One of the main problems facing youth today is no one cares for or listens to them, that is a major point why events like those school shootings happen. Each of us has a deep need to be heard, whether we admit it or not. It can be a casual conversation or a deep therapy session, if you feel that person is not listening then you feel they do not care. Being listened to is a lot like being loved, so we must take this manner seriously and grow in this skill.
Listening is not a spiritual gift that some people have and some people do not have, listening is something we all can do even if we are deaf. Listening is a natural ability and a skill that can be improved on, all its takes is the will to turn it on and let it work. We can also learn techniques to improve our abilities.
© 1994, 2001, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org