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Pride and Always Being the First to Speak

Hey bud! God gave you two ears and one mouth.

Use them proportionately. – The General

As I watched an old Western on TV one Sunday afternoon, I realized my pride was damaging our leadership team. In the movie, the leaders of a Sioux tribe were at a council meeting. The younger leaders on the council argued passionately and made several key points. Meanwhile, the eldest warrior listened quietly. When he raised his hand to speak, the group fell silent. He pointed out the merits of some of the arguments he heard and weaknesses in others. Then, he gave his advice. His wisdom ruled the day and solved the issues which threatened his people.

In a previous article on Courage, I shared a story about my hesitancy to speak up as a new leader. At this point in my career, I held seniority within my leadership team. Now, the pendulum had swung the other way. Unfortunately, my mouth was usually the first one to move in meetings. As an elder on the team, I dominated discussions without junior leaders having ever opened their mouths.

The Humility of the Sioux elder in the Western struck me right between the eyes. He had the most experience. He had fought many battles and already earned the right to speak in council meetings. Yet, he waited to be the last one to talk. When he did, his words were few but they were powerful.

His example caused me to examine my own leadership.

I know I will always fight against my ego. That fight never leaves me. Anytime I take our assessment, I always score worst in habit of Humility.

As I examined my leadership style, I realized I was losing the battle against my pride in our leadership meetings. So, I decided to make a change and follow the example of the old Sioux warrior. I would be determined to be the last to speak up in meetings instead of being the first.

My need to speak first had been so bad that sometimes I had to almost physically keep my mouth shut. But with effort and practice, I began to see changes occur on the leadership team as well as in me. Because I chose to stay quiet longer, more people began to get engaged. Because I kept my mouth shut, I listened better. Because I was the last to speak, often all I needed to do was agree with a previous comment and move on.

When the senior guy is the last to speak, the team grows stronger because more ideas are surfaced. Our team became more innovative because one person was not controlling the dialogue. Most importantly, other people were allowed to grow.

I eventually realized that by always speaking first, my experience actually stunted the growth of others. When I finally shut up and listened first, I watched hugely talented leaders flourish. They became more confident. In fact, I was humbled again because I found out how much I had to learn from them.

This taught me that the success and the experience of senior leader can often manifest itself in pride. Even if a leader believes what they are sharing is important for others to hear, they may not realize they may be stifling the input of others. As a result, their pride becomes the limiting factor in the growth of that team.

By exercising the Humility and choosing to be the last to speak, I went from being eager to share my wisdom to being the one who gained the most from the wisdom of others.

It was a simple yet hard exercise in Humility for me to implement. My father, The General used to say to me, “Hey bud! God gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionately.” That was a great lesson from my dad. I was so glad that the elder Sioux warrior reminded me of it.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • Is there a specific environment in which you are tempted to be the first to speak? What factors make you feel the need to speak?

  • What do you think could be gained by listening first?


It is important to us for you to have an opportunity to exercise Humility, 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 Humility via our Coaching Cards.

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