Leaders Go First

“…the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better – because your job is to try to help everybody else get better.”

Jim Yong Kim
President, The World Bank


As I was preparing to facilitate a meeting this week on strategies for providing effective feedback I came across the quote above. It provides a framing for the feedback endeavor that successfully dis-associates it from the stereotypical, hierarchical, “done unto” (as opposed to done together) approach that still dominates so much of the corporate leadership point of view on performance improvement.

It puts the onus on leaders to start within, focusing first on their own improvement as a continuous exercise of genuine humility. That practice of humility creates a space for a deeper empathetic sensibility that can then be applied to the leader’s team.

When feedback comes from that place it demonstrates a universal commitment to getting better (We are all in this together!) while also reenforcing the most basic truth of leadership, that leaders go first.

If you are not willing to go first, you are not a leader. If you are not willing to learn continuously, grow continuously, question your personal status quo continuously, you are not a leader.

But when you do, it changes everything. And no longer are you dreading the discomfort of providing feedback to your team but relishing the opportunity to be a catalyst for their growth. Once you normalize it for you, you normalize it for them.

Leaders. Go. First.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

One thought on “Leaders Go First

  1. Good post! Best line: If you are not willing to learn continuously, grow continuously, question your personal status quo continuously, you are not a leader.
    The leader who has stopped learning is driving their organization into yesterday.

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