By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growthShut-up and listen…While my message today is very direct, it’s also very simple: talk less and listen more. The best leaders are proactive strategic listeners. They recognize that knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening. Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader that comes to mind…you’ll find that they are very adept at reading between the lines. They have the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know that there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by commanding it. In this age of instant communication, everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind that they fail to realize everything to be gained from the minds of others. In today’s post I’ll quickly examine the merits of developing your listen skills.Simply broadcasting your message ad nauseum will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversation, but this assumes that you understand that the greatest form of discourse takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue. When you reach that point in your life where the light bulb goes off, and you begin to understand that knowledge is not gained by flapping your lips, but by removing your ear wax, you have taken the first step to becoming a skilled communicator.The next step in the process is learning where to apply your new found listening skills. Listen to your customers, competitors, your peers, your subordinates, and to those that care about you. Ask people how you can become a better leader and then LISTEN. Take your listening skills online, and don’t just push out Tweets and Facebook messages, but ask questions and elicit feedback. Use your vast array of social media platforms, toolsets and connections to listen. If you follow this advice not only will you become better informed, but you’ll also become more popular with those whom you interact with. And finally, if you’re ready for advanced listening skills, don’t just listen to those who agree with you, but actively seek out dissenting opinions and thoughts. Listen to those that confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. Good luck and good listening.