Sticking with it.


What if your responsibility as a leader is first to listen? To learn?


“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”


Rather than moving on to another key this week, let’s stick with this one: Listening.

Last week, Fearless Leaders rather courageously revealed how they’ve tended to avoid conflict in the hope that it would eventually burn out or go away.
Most of us say we hate ‘confrontation’.




First I want to say something about avoidance.

Avoidance is one response to conflict, and we tend to think of it as negative. Avoidance is not helpful when you know you must acknowledge the issue. Avoidance is not helpful when the issue is important to individuals, the organization, or the society.
When you feel like avoiding the conflict at hand, it’s likely that you need to give yourself time to process, time to think, to calm down or prepare, and time to identify whether or not you need to get involved.
Are the individuals doing just fine working it out for themselves?


So what happens when you start to see conflict differently, not as a looming obstacle but as a distress signal?

Conflict means something’s happening, something that you don’t understand, and it’s causing people pain.

What if you could notice conflict with interest and without feeling like it’s something that you have to resolve or fix?

What if your responsibility as a leader is first to listen? To learn?





“Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” 

— ALAN ALDA, author





As I said before, this is not easy. We get really busy trying to fix, help, opine, defend, sound like we care, or appear competent. But listening is none of this inner churning or outer display. It’s getting out of our own heads and giving our full attention – our presence, mind, and heart – to hear what someone is saying.


Try this.

You can say what you’ve noticed, and ask what’s happening.

When you don’t understand, you can say so: “I don’t understand.”

When appropriate, you may ask if they’re willing to say more.

When you don’t know how to respond, you can say so: “I don’t know what to say.”

When you’re learning something new or challenging and you need time to think, you can say so: “I’m going to make time to think about what you’ve said.”



“…it’s a healthy thing…to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”




Images: ‘Fifty Days at Iliam: Shield of Achilles’ by Cy Twombly; Textile art by Gabriel Orozco at the Noguchi Museum, NYC; Chandelier from Danh Vo Exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum, NYC.


Posted in

Leave a Comment