11-time NBA championship winning coach, Phil Jackson tells the story of a young prince who was sent by his father to study how to become a good ruler with a great Chinese master.

The first assignment that the master gave him was to spend a year in the forest alone.

When the prince returned, the master asked him to describe what he had heard.  He replied, “I could hear the cuckoos sing, the leaves rustle, the hummingbirds hum, the grass blow, the bees buzz, the crickets chirp and the wind whisper and holler.”

After the prince finished, the master told him to return to the forest to listen for what more could be heard.

So the prince went back and sat alone in the forest for several days and nights, wondering what the master was talking about.  Then one morning, he started to hear faint sounds that he had never heard before.

Upon his return, the prince told the master, “When I listened most closely, I could hear the unheard.  The sound of flowers opening, the sound of the sun warming the earth, and the sound of the grass drinking the morning dew.”

The master smiled and nodded.  “To hear the unheard,” he said, “is a necessary discipline to be a good ruler.  For only when a ruler has learned to listen closely to the people’s hearts, hearing their feelings uncommunicated, pains unexpressed, and complaints not spoken of, can he hope to inspire confidence in the people, understand when something is wrong and meet the true needs of his citizens.”

If you’re a leader, let me encourage you to develop the intuitive empathy required to hear the unheard.

This is how you will meet the true needs of your people.