Leadership is not Speaking Over Others

Buckhead Triangle, Buckhead, Atlanta GA.jpg
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Back in 2004 I was at a prospective customer’s office in Buckhead down by the old Roxy Theater pitching our product with my lead developer. As an excited entrepreneur I was talked a mile a minute going through the minutia of every little feature in the application. The lead developer, proud of his creation, would answer some of their more detailed questions and I would interject with my spin on the response. This continued throughout the meeting and by the end I was proud of myself for answering all their questions. Little did I know me speaking over the developer and cutting him off was disrespectful and poor leadership.

Later in the week the developer approached me and told me what I had done and how frustrated he was with me. Wow, it was a big wake-up call for my lack of respect and leadership. From my point of view I was passionate about the product and wanted everyone to know how much I loved it. I was a poor leader. I didn’t respect his contributions and his passion for our product. I quickly apologized for what I had done and learned a lesson that I still keep with me to this day.

Leadership is not speaking over others. Leadership is being respectful and valuing the contribution from team members. When a team member speaks now, especially in front of a client, and I have the urge to say something that I think might sound a tad better, I bite my tongue and remember that everyone needs to contribute, not just me.

What else? What are your thoughts on leadership and letting everyone speak?

7 thoughts on “Leadership is not Speaking Over Others

  1. Leader’s often fail to realize their “curse of knowledge”. So when they rapidly spout off their industry acronyms, they often speak over their audience.

    I work at a mega church now, planting partner churches throughout the country. When it comes to inspiring people to give to the churches, it’s much more effective to have lost individuals tell their personal story of redemption, rather than having the Lead Pastor tell the same story. The former story is personal, the later story is second hand. As such, the personal story is much more compelling.

    LIkewise, having a customer pitch a company is often way more effective than having the CEO make the same ptich.

    People remember stories, they don’t remember data.

  2. Kudos to you for listening to the developer’s constructive criticism for what it was, and for leveraging it as a valuable lesson. Many of us would shun such advice and continue our blusterous ways.
    Your post is a great reminder that great leaders are great listeners!

  3. Great story David – thanks for sharing.

    Do you think you should have provide feedback to the developer on how to better articulate his responses as opposed to speaking over him?

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