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January 13, 2005
Listening Leaders: The Ten Gold Rules To Listen, Lead
Reviewed by Dr. Susan K. Hedahl
Lyman Steil and Richard Bommelje are scholars and industry-based researchers in the field of listening. Their work, entitled Listening Leaders: The Ten Golden Rules To Listen, Lead and Succeed has just been published in the last three months. Both authors are college instructors and both are professionally engaged in writing and speaking about listening. Their particular slant on listening is specifically related to leadership. Quotes are used extensively throughout the book from leaders in industry, the Church, education and commerce, all of which have developed or rely on various forms of listening methods.
Steil and Bommelje build on the skills-based interpretation of listening and say this of leaders who know how to listen:
They have benchmarked and are aware of their attitudes, their knowledge and their skill. They understand why a positive listening leadership attitude is imperative. In addition...they are perpetual students of the listening and leading process. Moreover, they are constantly advancing their crucial listening skills and abilities." (50)
The authors' definition of listening is: Listening is the complex, innate and learned human process of sensing, interpreting, evaluating, storing and responding to messages. (31) The book sorts out the multiple implications of this definition through the use of various schemata presented in the form of a ten-point pyramid representation of listening; but it is not a pyramid scheme in the worst sense!
Listening, as the first human communication response, is thoroughly explored in this work in such a way that the reader is presented with excellent possibilities for teaching listening education for faith communities. Although the book focuses on the intersection of listening and leadership, there is nothing in what they offer that cannot be just as well used by so-called "followers" as compared to the so-called "leaders" in any community. In other words, this book is excellent for all who are interested in discipleship in Christ.
The pictorial layout of the book is excellent. Acronyms are used throughout to help the reader assimilate the materials. One acronym for example, is "ASK." (Golden Rule 2). This is defined and explored as: Attitudes: "Listening leaders who establish and practice positive listening attitudes and values...; (42) Skills: "...center on a multitude of listening behaviors, competencies, techniques, and abilities to thrive as a leader." (45) and Knowledge: " about the degree, importance, costs, rewards, purposes, stages, process, strategies and barriers of listening...." (47)
It is this kind of specific, skills-based training, which I believe, is so essential to heightening our discernment processes, community well being and interactions as people of faith.