When asked, one of my favorite topics of conversation is ‘leadership.’ I truly love the topic, and as a principal I am sometimes asked for leadership advice. At those times, one phrase comes to mind based upon my own reflections of growth and professional development. I call it ‘The 3 L Philosophy.’

Listen to Learn in Order to Lead

I find myself rehearsing this almost daily as I encounter opportunities to lead. No, it is not that I think ‘I have arrived’ or even have any of this ‘figured out.’ It is simply that I believe it is the responsibility of everyone who finds him-/herself in a leadership role at any level and within any organization to pay forward any lessons learned to others.

Listen is defined as to attend closely for the purpose of hearing. This hearing is more than a listening for sounds and words, but for detecting the message that the speaker is intending to communicate. This is a consciously competent action which requires hours upon hours of practice with the focus on the speaker. I am convinced that this skill is a must have for any leader and an absolute non-negotiable!

This leads to learning. Notice that an effective leader does not go directly from listening to leading. Instead, the next ‘step’ is to learn. A leader always looks for the opportunity to learn as there is no ‘one size fits all’ response or methodology for effective leadership as each encounter provides its own unique framework of interaction.

Lead. Wow! You might think, ‘Finally! This is the critical moment-the pinnacle on which the listening and learning hinge’. And if so, you’d be right.

No true leading occurs without the development and application of the previous two. Without listening to learn, one it merely speaking words.

The 3 L Philosophy may seem overly simplistic, and my purpose is not to make light of a very detailed and complex set of actions collectively called leading. Rather, in trying to articulate some areas that cannot be overly emphasized or utilized by a ‘leader’.

What do you think?