It was a bright sunny blue sky day in Colorado when I met the retired US Air Force 2 Star Major General for breakfast. Our view was Pikes Peak. The setting couldn’t have been better for our meeting and our outdoor breakfast in the crisp clean Colorado air.
I’ll call my breakfast colleague Bob for the sake of simplicity. We hadn’t been seated for very long when Bob suggested that I look over his left shoulder. At the table next to us were two individuals. Bob started describing the person he wanted me to see.
Once I figured out who Bob wanted to tell me about, he asked me if I wanted to know the tall gentleman’s story. Of course I wanted to know the story if Bob thought it was important enough to share. Bob always shares fascinating stories that are loaded with wisdom.
The person at the other table was a retired 4 Star US Air Force General. Bob asked me if I wanted to know how the 4 Star General made it to 4 Stars. Of course I wanted to know. It turns out that Bob, the retired 2 Star Major General and the retired 4 Star General both graduated from the same class at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs 30 years ago.
Bob told me about the accomplishment filled career of the retired 4 Star General. He suggested that the 4 Star General was always the smartest person in any group of people. Bob told me that the 4 Star General learned very early in his Air Force career that it was better for him to listen than to speak more often than not.
Despite being the smartest person in the room most of the time, the 4 Star General was always the most active listener in the room.
Beyond listening more than he spoke, Bob told me that the 4 Star General was also a man of great humility. Having humility means that you don’t think of yourself as being better than other people.
In leadership action, humility means that you make a habit out of letting other people speak and letting other people win. Staying humble and allowing others to win around him were keys to the 4 Star General reaching the 4 Star rank.
I asked Bob why he thought he didn’t make it to the 4 Star level? He told me that it took him a lot longer to learn about humility than it did for his Academy classmate.
Jeff Snyder Coaching, 719.686.8810