How to spot the best leader in the room
Phil Cooke

Phil Cooke

I’ve worked with national level leaders and creative people for a long time and sometimes I’ll be with a group I haven’t met personally. In those situations I’m always curious about who has the most experience, knowledge, wisdom, and vision, because that’s the person I want to get to know. And I’ve discovered a method that’s almost foolproof for quickly discovering that person within the group:

It’s the person who talks the least.

Invariably, the wise, experienced, and mature leader is the one listening, not talking. And for what it’s worth, the opposite principle works just as reliably: The least experienced person in the group is usually the one who does all the talking.

I’ve confirmed it time and time again in all kinds of situations from conferences to strategy sessions, casual meetings in coffee shops, and simply hanging out. The least experienced wants to share his knowledge with the group, impress everyone with his or her credentials, and is desperate to prove he’s a top level person who belongs. But non-stop talking about yourself undermines the very thing you’re trying to achieve – credibility.

Check it out the next time you’re with a group of leaders or creative people, and let me know what you see. After all, there’s a big reason why some people are wise, smart, experienced, and mature: they’re listening, not talking.


Phil Cooke is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media.” Find out more at