So often we act as though leadership is wrapped up in a title, charisma, or eloquent messaging.

Yet, many times the individuals I most want to hear from — those whose thoughts and opinions influence me the most — are doing less talking than almost everyone around them.

The best leaders I know seem to have mastered the art of listening — to the point that they know precisely when to speak.

Those from whom I have learned the most about leadership almost always teach more by way of what they do than what they say. And lead by example.

There is a simple reason for this: listening is the key to the development of an authentic voice.

The Link Between Listening and Authenticity

Many may be skilled to varying degrees at managing process, directing and even navigating crisis. But when it comes to awarding trust and loyalty, tribes, organizations and communities value authenticity above almost everything.

And authenticity — the empathy that makes it possible to connect at a level that resonates — is born in the context of intentional listening.

Where leadership seems lacking, chances are good the art of intentional listening is in short supply, if not absent.

I was reminded of this thanks to a recent report in Business News Daily that ranks the failure to listen as one of the top reasons employees hate bosses.

In a given hour, we are inevitably drawn to the eloquent. In the short term, maybe even for a season, reputation or resume can demand a measure of respect.

But the leaders who inspire trust, loyalty and action — those who mentor tomorrow’s leaders, and whose teams would walk across burning coals to change the shape of their respective realities — these are the leaders who consistently speak at the right time, with an authentic voice.

This authenticity is the byproduct of an extraordinary skill. And is the leader’s tangible reward for practiced intentional listening.