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Most Leaders Talk Too Much

A leader’s willingness to listen is a window into their character.

“We did it again. We talked too much. Every time we are with other people, we do the same thing. We talk about ourselves and don’t ask enough questions about them.”

My wife was right, of course. She usually is about these things. She shared her thoughts with me one night after we both left a party. She felt like we came away with other people knowing more about us than we knew about them. Unfortunately, this was not the first time she brought this concern up. She ended the conversation with a rhetorical question. “Who is going to want to be around us if all we do is talk about ourselves?”

My wife and I have been married for over 25 years. We continue to work together to be better at listening to others and not talking too much. We are getting better, but we still have room to grow. Her feedback continues to be a huge leadership lesson for me. I see the same issue everywhere—no matter if it is in business, non-profits or law enforcement. Most leaders talk too much.

For whatever reason, we think we aren’t leading unless our mouths are moving. A leader’s willingness to listen is a window into their character. Please notice I did not say, a leader’s ability to listen is a window into their character. Most of us have the ability to listen. The question is, do we choose to listen?

When leaders talk too much, other people stay quiet. This happens at corporate picnics, during meeting breaks and in classroom settings. When the leader’s mouth is moving, everyone else holds their tongue. Because of this, the leader misses out on the opinions of others. The result? The leader may never get a critical perspective he or she needs. Instead, the leader will only operate off of what they already know.

As a leader, the point of communicating with others isn’t to just get a point across or to tell a story. The purpose should also to be to gather new information and to hear the perspective of others. We can’t do that if our mouths are moving.

I have had to learn this firsthand. Here are some simple tools I have used to overcome my propensity for talking too much:

  • I listen longer than I feel comfortable listening.

  • I count to three before I begin speaking. This ensures others have had a chance to complete their thoughts.

  • I play a game with myself. I try to ask more questions than the other person does.

None of these points take a special skill. Instead, they require a level of Selflessness which many leaders don’t always practice. Yet, when we talk less and listen more, we show we are a Leader of Character who will inspire others to share more information and trust their opinions matter.

When my wife asked, “Who is going to want to be around us?” it was a real wake up call. She was right. Who is going to want to be around us if we do all the talking? The answer to her question should wake each of us up. We are called to lead. Selflessness helps us to become the leader we wish we had.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • Do you want to be around people who do all the talking?

  • What can you do to work on your willingness to listen to others?

  • What leader do you know who is a great listener?


It is important to us for you to have an opportunity to exercise Selflessness, not only individually, but together as a team. This is why we have created practice cards with scenarios. We invite you to discuss as a team what it means to exercise Selflessness via our Coaching Cards.

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