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Listen Before You Speak and Learn Before You Lead

“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” 
— Zig Ziglar

There’s a narrative in ancient history about two kings whose nations were on the verge of war. The young emerging king, speaking boastfully about his recent conquests, attempts to provoke and intimidate his older, more experienced opponent, to which the older, wiser warrior replies, “Let not the man putting on his armor talk like the one who’s taking his off.”

The younger, less experienced leader foolishly dismisses his opponents’ advice and mounts his attack, unfortunately hastening his own demise in the process.

Never Underestimate the Power of Mentorship

High-quality leaders aren’t born that way, nor are they self-made; they’re trained to learn from their mentors and taught the value of learning from their own mistakes.

Companies that invest in their people by implementing mentoring programs have proven to fare better than those who don’t in challenging economic conditions:

Companies with mentoring programs had profits that were 18% better than average, while those without mentoring programs had profits that were 45% worse than the average.” (1)


Observe, analyze, and learn…

The young king in our narrative would have done himself a great service to observe, analyze, and learn from his counterparts’ successful track record. To that point, an article from LinkedIn aptly states that,

“Learning from other leaders is not just about copying their actions or words. You need to observe and analyze how they think, communicate, make decisions, solve problems, handle challenges, motivate others, and achieve results. You need to understand the context, the purpose, and the impact of their leadership.” (2)

“When it comes to learning how to lead, experience has better rewards than leadership academies– if leaders are conscientious about how and what they are learning. Leaders can learn from their experiences by diligently working through each of the following three phases of the experiential learning cycle: setting learning goals, experimenting, and reflecting on experiments…

Although organizations spend more than $24 billion annually on leadership development, many leaders who have attended leadership programs struggle to implement what they’ve learned. It’s not because the programs are bad but because leadership is best learned from experience.”(3)

Mentorship has always been the most successful way to succession; the wise in heart never acquired their wisdom or success on their own; they learned from what they experienced in the heat of battle alongside their mentors.


In Closing, Elie Wiesel wisely asserts, “There is divine beauty in learning… To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth. Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps.”


End Notes

(1) Mentoring Statistics You Need to Know in 2024 -

(2) How do you learn from leaders? – Linkedin

(3) Good Leaders are Good Learners - Harvard Business Review.

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***


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