Leadership Listening is a Blindspot

Leadership Listening Is A Blindspot

Knowing how to deepen your leadership listening can be the most rewarding and transformational skill to develop.  Cultivating and honing your ability to listen is also one of the greatest leadership opportunities in this face-paced modern-day era and throughout your life.


The model for deep listening comes from Otto C Scharmer, a professor at MIT and the creator of Theory U. Before unpacking the 4 Archetypes of Listening, it’s important to understand the why and the opportunity at hand. As Otto shares, “there is a blind spot in leadership today: the interior condition” from which we operate.”

Theory U is an awareness-based method for changing systems to transform (one)Self, business, and society. At its core, Theory U comprises three main elements:

  1. A framework for seeing the blind spot of leadership and systems change
  2. A method for implementing awareness-based change: process, principles, and practices
  3. A new narrative for evolutionary societal change: updating our mental and institutional operating systems in all social sectors.

These areas allow you to explore your consciousness, a journey that is unique and different in every moment, giving you the flexibility and adaptability by learning to lead from the emerging future.


The heart of Theory U is the interior dimension or inner landscape of an Open Mind, Open Heart, and Open Will.  Your Open Mind is the capacity to suspend old habits of judgment and see with fresh eyes. Leading with an Open Heart is when you can empathize and look at a situation through the eyes of somebody else.  And an Open Will is the capacity to “let go” of the old and “let come” the new.

Without these leadership skills, it’s almost impossible to navigate the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world around you. Listening changes everything and is life-changing. Shifting your mode of listening gives you access to different data, and not all data is aligned with solving the problem.  If you’re not a good listener, there’s no way you can develop real mastery in anything you endeavor.


As you read through these, note the four archetypes of listening are the underlying principles for leading with an Open Mind, Open Heart, and Open Will.  It’s also important to note that your experiences will be different depending on who you’re communicating with, and like the fluctuations of the mind, your listening changes when you’re conscious versus when you’re not.

  1. DOWNLOADING: This is where your listening is limited and you’re listening from habit. You’re reconfirming what you already know- like you’re in your own headspace and nothing is penetrating your bubble.  
  2. FACTUAL LISTENING: Here you are letting the data talk to you and you’re noticing disconfirming information.  Doing this requires opening the mind so you have the capacity to suspend your habit of judgment. At this stage, you have a heavy dose of confirmation bias so be and stay aware.
  3. EMPATHETIC LISTENING: This is where you see the situation through the eyes of another.  Doing so requires you to open your heart-using your feelings and your heart as an organ of tuning in to another person’s view.
  4. GENERATIVE LISTENING: Here is where you’re listening for the highest future possibility to show up while holding space for something new to emerge, or “be born.”

Watch this LinkedIn LIVE that explains these levels in more detail.  Each step can be a threshold that carries you forward with more energy and excitement.  It allows you to feel more vulnerable and connected because you’re looking at a person, team, and situation as a dynamic living field where data is being birthed and harvested simultaneously. It’s an exciting way for you to engage with life, relationships, challenges, and circumstances more healthily and holistically. The key takeaway is that success relies on your ability to observe and adjust the quality of your listening to what is needed in each situation.

Allison Adams is an international wellness entrepreneur and founder of Sacred Leadership Global. She guides leaders in creating a conscious, sustainable lifestyle and leadership brand that’s sourced through health, well-being, values, and heart. Her transformational experiences include Personal and Team Coaching, Wellness Sabbaticals, Retreats, and Community. Each offer is intentionally curated to support the needs, aspirations, and transformation of clients worldwide. Connect via LinkedIn.

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