Levels of listening (Host edition)






Pen, paper, computer


Head of Program




Otto Scharmer, leading researcher of systems innovation and social change processes at MIT, claims that the source of leadership failure Is very often a lack of listening and a lack of connecting with what is really going on. He identifies the skill of listening as the source of great leadership, and the foundation of professional mastery.

To address this, he has created a model identifying four levels of listening: habitual, factual, empathetic, and generative.

Different situations call for a different kind of listening. Being aware of and mastering the different levels of listening makes it possible to use each of them when it is most needed. For example, generative listening requires most internal resources, like time, openness, empathy, tolerance. At the same time, this kind of listening is conducive to innovation and emergent learning.


We use the 'levels of listening' framework to have a shared language about our listening practice, and the quality of attention we bring into the room as pioneers. Identifying our patterns of listening and the effect these have in the spaces we are in. Becoming intentional about how we listen as a leadership skill.



(15min) Solo reflection: Reflect on your past experiences - when have you engaged in the four different levels of listening?

Choose an example from your life for each level of listening. What was the situation? What affected how you listened in that situation? What was the result of listening in the way you did?


(10min) Share in the group: Each person shares insight from their reflection.


(10min) Solo reflection: Think ahead to the program, and the situations you will be in with the participants, and with your team. What kind of listening do you want to practice, and when? What kind of listening is necessary for the situations we are in during the program? What could help to do that, and what might make it difficult?


(15min) Discuss in the group: How to encourage a practice of listening throughout the program, to benefit everyone? Make sure to note down any important decisions, rules, ideas, etc. that come up, so that you can follow up later.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLfXpRkVZaI&t=2s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BdbiZcNBXg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSohjlYQI2A

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