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Leading the Way: The Benefits of Going First

Two seeds were buried side by side in a field. The seeds—Amara and Brio—lay dormant, dreaming of the sky.

One day, a gentle rain whispered promises of growth. Amara felt the call of the world above and thought, “It may be time to sprout. But what if the sun is too harsh, or the rain too scarce? What if I emerge too soon?” Fearful, Amara decided to wait.

Beside Amara, Brio also heard the rain’s song. Excited, Brio thought, “What wonders await above! Yes, there might be storms and scorching days, but how will I feel the rain’s gentle touch or bask in the morning light if I do not dare to grow?” With that, Brio pushed through the soil and sprouted towards the sun.

As days turned into weeks, Brio reveled in the sun’s warmth and danced in the wind, growing steadily towards the sky. Below, Amara heard Brio’s tales of the world above: the bees’ gentle buzz, the birds’ sweet songs, and the dance of butterflies. With each story, Amara’s fear slowly turned into regret.

At last, Amara could wait no longer. Shedding doubts like an old shell, Amara sprouted forth, eager to join Brio. Though the journey had been delayed, Amara grew with newfound vigor, inspired by Brio’s courage.

In time, both stood tall and proud. Amara learned that going first isn’t about avoiding challenges but embracing them as part of growth. Brio knew that the leap of faith was a journey of one’s own.

Together, they learned every journey begins with a decision to emerge, to lead, to go first. And sometimes, the first step is the most courageous step of all.

Many of us hesitate to take the first step due to a combination of fear of rejection, fear of failure, and lack of confidence. Social norms and cultural expectations can further discourage us from stepping forward, as they might dictate a more reserved or deferential approach in certain contexts. Additionally, risk aversion plays a significant role, as the potential negative outcomes of taking initiative—whether they be emotional, social, or even financial—often loom larger in our minds than the potential benefits. This overthinking can lead to analysis paralysis, where the fear of making the wrong decision prevents any decision at all.

However, overcoming these barriers and choosing to act first can transform our lives. Taking the lead opens doors to growth, opportunity, and stronger relationships, despite the inherent risks. 

“Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” — Maya Angelou

Build and Maintain Relationships

In our daily interactions, going first can create stronger connections and nurture deeper understanding. For example, one of my daughters is often the first to compliment family and friends. By commenting politely on their hair, clothing, shoes, or a special piece of jewelry, she creates a positive atmosphere and strengthens the bond she has with those she cares about. 

While complimenting is a straightforward and uplifting way to practice the life philosophy of going first, initiating an apology can be more challenging. When we initiate an apology, we make peace with another person and deepen trust. A sincere apology often leads to mutual forgiveness, strengthening bonds and creating a healthier communication climate. Similarly, taking the first step to forgive others can be an act of healing. Initiating forgiveness reflects a strong capacity for empathy, paving the way for renewed trust and collaboration.

Giving compliments, apologizing, and forgiving others can naturally trigger reciprocity, where positive gestures often inspire others to respond in kind. However, it’s important to approach these actions, not with the expectation of a reciprocal response but, from a place of genuine intent to contribute positively to our relationships. 

Enhance Communication

Being the first to share ideas, ask questions, and provide feedback can positively contribute to personal growth and organizational success. 

  • Share Ideas: By being the first to put forward an idea, you encourage a culture of open communication and innovation. For instance, if you propose a unique approach to product development, it can inspire your team to think creatively.

  • Ask Questions: Proactively asking questions can lead to greater clarity and understanding for everyone involved, contributing to an environment where inquiry is valued. Imagine you’re in a project review, and you ask about the specific metrics for success; this can help clarify the project’s goals for the whole team.

  • Provide Feedback: Offering feedback first can improve processes and personal performance, enhancing overall communication and effectiveness. Consider a situation where, after a sales presentation, you provide constructive criticism on the delivery techniques used; this proactive feedback can help your colleagues refine their presentation skills, potentially increasing future sales outcomes.

These behaviors align with principles from research on proactive behavior in organizations, which emphasizes the benefits of self-initiated actions that aim to improve situations or oneself. Asking questions and providing feedback not only clarify misunderstandings but enhance the collective knowledge and adaptability of a group. These actions help create a culture where proactive communication is the norm.

Demonstrate Leadership

Leadership is often exemplified not just by one’s ability to command but more so through the willingness to act first. Let’s explore three ways we can practice proactive leadership in everyday actions.

  • Volunteer: Stepping up to take on new projects shows leadership and can set you apart as a dedicated individual. For example, if you volunteer to manage a new initiative, you demonstrate your capability and commitment, potentially opening doors to future leadership opportunities.

  • Make Decisions: Being decisive demonstrates confidence and can lead to quicker, more effective team action. Consider a scenario where, in an upcoming strategy meeting, you quickly choose a course of action for a time-sensitive project, boosting your team’s efficiency and showcasing your leadership skills.

  • Take Responsibility: Initiating accountability, especially in difficult situations, establishes your integrity and commitment to the group’s goals. Imagine you discover an error in a major project due to launch. By stepping forward to address and resolve the issue, you not only prevent potential setbacks but also solidify your reputation as a dependable and responsible leader.

Volunteering for challenging projects or being decisive in crisis situations reflects key traits of transformational leadership, which inspires and motivates others through proactive and positive changes. Such leaders are seen as role models, their actions setting a benchmark within the group. Taking responsibility, particularly in adverse situations, not only cements a leader’s credibility but also galvanizes a culture of accountability and integrity within the team.


By integrating these behaviors into our daily practices, we can enhance our personal lives and contribute to creating more collaborative teams. Whether through building relationships, enhancing communication, or demonstrating leadership, the act of going first is a powerful catalyst for positive change.


Bass, B. M. (1999). Two decades of research and development in transformational leadership. European journal of work and organizational psychology, 8(1), 9-32.

Buunk, B. P., & Schaufeli, W. B. (1999). Reciprocity in interpersonal relationships: An evolutionary perspective on its importance for health and well-being. European review of social psychology, 10(1), 259-291.

Crant, J. M. (2000). Proactive behavior in organizations. Journal of management, 26(3), 435-462.

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