Leadership Requires Listening As Much As Leading

Leadership and football go hand in hand. Obvious examples of leadership are a coach to the team and the quarterback to the offense. But leadership on the field actually happens from all players striving to make each other better. It’s common to see veteran players “coaching up” rookies and younger players on things to look for in an offense or defense.

And while I received lots of leadership when I played football, I’ll never forget the time I lost a position because I refused to listen to my coach. It was back in Pop Warner Football, which is aimed at youth ages five to fourteen. I had played many positions in my Pop Warner career; wide receiver, tight end, punter, kicker, free safety, cornerback, and defensive end. Yeah, I was pretty versatile as a tike.

One day one of the new kids to Tahoe was hanging around the football field watching practice. Nobody really knew him since he was so new. In fact, I don’t think anyone really liked him at all. (Ok…that’s a lie. My negativity toward him will be explained in a minute.)

As I finished up, he asked if it was ok if he kicked a couple. Being the nice and gracious guy I was, I said, sure. Mistake! Biiiiiig mistake. As he tee’d up the football, he moved back just like me, but then he moved to the side. He ran at an angle toward the ball and BAM!!! Right through the center of the uprights. (Actually, the practice field only had soccer goals, so technically over the top of the soccer goal.)

Now this wouldn’t normally have been an issue, except that one of our coaches had stayed back. He took notice of the kid cranking the balls over the goal with amazing precision. Next thing you know, my coach is having a kick-off between me and new guy.

My coach said, “Chris, just do what you always do.” Yeah…apparently that day I decided, from fear of losing my place, to try and kick like soccer boy. Even though I had never tried it. While normally I would crank the ball over the goal, I started shanking balls left and right.

My coach kept saying, “Chris, just kick the ball straight. Quit trying to kick it his way. Do it the way you’ve always done it.” Yeah, no chance. Every time I just about connected with the ball I would turn my foot and the ball would wobble like a water logged Nerf off to the side.

All I had to do was listen to my coach and do what he was telling me and I would have placed those balls over the goal each time. Instead, new guy ended up with my position. Compare that with how I listened to my ski coach in Is That What You’re Wearing? and you’ll start to see a pattern.

Sometimes, it’s easy in leadership to get to a point where you feel like you have all the answers. The problem is, when you stop taking advice and ideas from others, you stifle your business and productivity.

Ecclesiastes 4:13 says – “Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning.”

Question: What experiences do you have in your life where not listening caused you to lose out?



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

28 thoughts on “Leadership Requires Listening As Much As Leading”

  1. That’s a great point Chris! Most problems seem to stem from pride…think we know best. I think there’s also something to be said for being yourself. Your issues came from trying to be someone you are not. Just because a style works great for someone else doesn’t mean it’ll work for you! Be you, it’s what you’re best at!

  2. Your experience in this story is often how team members treat new team members.  They feel threatened.  As a leader, this is something to watch out for when you bring someone new on.  And I mean watch out for it in your team and in you.  Rock stars can bring out the insecurities in others.  Love the pic!

    1.  @JoelFortner I couldn’t read the article because I kept looking at the hair…I’ve never known CLo with hair. 🙂

    2.  @JoelFortner Too true! At a previous job one of my co-workers felt threatened by me. She knew her stuff when it came to the job, had no reason to worry about losing it, but her worst side came out. She drastically affected the morale in the workplace and some customers even avoided her. Her position would be eternally guaranteed if she had chosen to be positive and friendly instead of toxic. 

    3.  @JoelFortner Joel – you hit the nail on the head.  “Rock stars can bring out the insecurities in others….” – maybe you could write a blog about that?  I have  seen that over and over again not only within my team, but in other business relationships and their teams.  Great point!

  3. Chris, listening is the one thing I’m really working on right now. As the old cliche says, “God gave us two ears and one mouth so we could listen twice as much as we talk.” Of course human nature is to do the exact opposite of what is good and right, but because of that, those who listen will be able to lead those who won’t. Great post!

  4. Years ago I had the opportunity to take on a leadership position for a new project. It was a new school starting up and we were launching with preschool and kindergarten. The goal was to build the project from scratch and eventually have K-12. I jumped at the chance of designing an educational project any way I wanted. I had the freedom to do whatever I saw fit.  Wow! Talk about an ego trip.  Ego got the best of me.  At the time, my dad was starting a small business. He told me: “When your project fails, you are always welcome to come work for me.”  I was so hurt!  I thought there’s no way we could fail, we were so excited about this! We were changing the world! Of course back in my 20s I knew everything so I didn’t listen to my dad. What he saw that I didn’t see was that there were some major ethical issues with the project, conflict of interests and mainly it was being driven by a very egotistical and controlling person -with an engineering degree- and it was not the right fit for me.  I was totally unprepared for the challenge. The project eventually succeeded without me and I moved on to a great job. Had I listened, I would have saved myself from an embarassing performance and an ugly exit.  Good learning experience, but very difficult to live.

    1. Why do we have to prove We can do stuff without our parents advice? I think of how many things, had I JUST LISTENED, would have turned out considerably less painful.

      My mom had seen the pitfalls and tried to push me around them. But I spent many years falling in and trying to get out again.

      You have to realize that the distance traveled going around the pitfalls is a TON farther than going through them.

    2.  @lilykreitinger Lily – always hard when you are young not to be overwhelmed with enthusiasm – especially with a new and exciting project!  And maturity and experience – and LIFE –  does many times give us the wisdom to see all sides (conflict of interest, ego, ethical issues, etc.)  

  5. This is great Chris.  Learn to Listen. Listen to Learn.  When we are young, I believe it is being stubborn and hard headed. Those tough lessons we learn can pay off down the road.  Somewhere along the way, as we grow up, the ego gets involved and doesn’t allow us to listen.  We have to continually work on removing the ego from the situation. Listening is the way we connect with people as well.  We show that we care and value the other person when we listen to them.
    Thanks again Chris.

  6. This one is easy to answer, unfortunately. Not listening to both sides of a story before reacting. The person who approaches you first to solve a dispute is only giving you ONE side of the story. Reacting to that was a foolish mistake that I still regret, even though BOTH parties are no longer with our organization.

    Proverbs 18:13~. He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.

    1.  @skottydog Wow – has this happened  to me – and I have memorized that Proverb – because I was the world’s worst to jump to settle something before hearing both sides – yes, yes, folly and shame….!

  7. Your story makes me think of a couple of things actually…
    I’m reminded of David vs Goliath – when Saul tries to pass his armor off on David. (When you remove your own unique competitive advantage by thinking someone else is better than you in some way.) The neat thing: David was already ready to kill his giant just as he was.  I wonder how many times we do that to ourselves….I know I tend to look at the other guy and consider myself as being less – when God has me all dressed up and exactly as I am FOR THIS EXACT MOMENT. 
    Not listening and losing out: Sheesh. I bet we could all write books about that. For me: Knowing God was telling me to slow down and not be hasty with an important money decision we were about to me. (Debt.)  I decided to ignore that quiet voice, and well…today I sure do wish I had of listened. We are working hard to dig our slow way out again. 

    Agreed Chris! When a leader listens what his team has to say, it reveals that–
    — the leader values people
    — the leader is humble and rules heart over head
    — the leader is down to earth
    — the leader is accessible and genuine
    — the leader is a seeker of wisdom

  9. As you and Dave say repeatedly: “You have two ears and one mouth, use them accordingly!”  (probably didn’t quote it exactly, don’t want to plagiarize you!)  I have been “hearing” a lot more lately and it has really helped my leadership.

  10. There were numerous times in my youth when I refused to listen – thinking I knew better than someone else.  “Heeding a warning….” is sound advice from the Book of Proverbs – and one that I have tried to apply more in my later years.  Hopefully, I pray that I am slower to speak – and slower to judge – and FASTER to listen and heed a warning.  

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