Why Great Leaders Let Others Go First


Recently I’ve been working closely with a newly appointed CEO of a well known UK retail brand.

The company is an iconic name on the UK high street, but recently has lost its way and for the past few years the business had been in turmoil.

The new CEO is almost their last chance to survive. He has a reputation in British business as a great leader.

As part of the inevitable restructure, he invited me to attend some of the initial internal management meetings. Naturally, as is often the case during adverse times, pressure was high and conversations were tense.

Yet I also noticed something interesting. Despite being a retail veteran of over 35 years, this CEO never jumped straight in to get his view across first. He alwayslet others take the floor first. Sometimes he even simply introduced the meeting and let others start of the discussion. And yet at all times he was totally control.

And although it is early days, already the business is starting to become more profitable.

Sometimes in our eagerness to get our point across and be helpful, it’s tempting to go first.

Yet great leaders are different. The realise leading an organization, doesn’t mean having to lead every conversation.

Here are some reasons why great leaders let others go first.

It generates the full picture

Leadership is not about simply doing what you want.

Often, the best way to get things done is being able to see other people’s point of view.

Allowing other people to have their say first let’s you know what everyone is thinking. What they believe and even what their motives are. It’s a unique opportunity to get a thorough analysis of the situation rather than taking action based on presumptions.

Great leaders understand that managing others is a complex process and to stand any chance at all it’s essential to get a comprehensive diagnosis.

Only then can you come up with the right solution.

Great leaders get the full picture.

It makes others feel valued

As social creatures, we all want to feel wanted.

To feel like what we offer can contribute to the overall group. It’s become ingrained into our charachters over millions of years of living in groups.

So perhaps nothing can be more frustrating than being totally trampled over in a conversation without getting a word in. Or being told what to do without being consulted. Especially if its something we don’t agree with.

By letting others go first, great leaders realise that it automatically shows others that their opinion counts. That what they say matters.

Great leaders value all of their followers.

It creates trust

However perhaps most powerful of all is that by letting others go first we show respect and appreciation.

And respecting others is the foundation of building long term trust.

Great leaders understand that it’s often difficult for others to say what they are really feeling once someone else has expressed a strong opinion. No-one wants want to be seen as the outsider or the awkward one – especially towards the boss. But letting other people go first results in an environment where people are much more likely to express their opinion more freely and honestly. Without worrying about upsetting the applecart.

And once we listen to others attentively, it’s human nature to reciprocate.

Resulting in all sides hearing each other out.

Great leaders create trust.


Going first doesn’t always mean coming first.

In fact the most successful leaders of all commonly let others take the lead if its the right thing to do.

Hiring managers can gain much from those people who respect others at all levels and let others go first to gain valuable knowledge, co-operation and trust.

Does your boss let you go first?

If you are a hiring manager and are passionate about hiring the best people for your team, please reach out here