Is there such a thing as a quiet leader? I don’t mean someone who doesn’t make decisions, doesn’t have ideas, or just doesn’t lead. I’m talking about someone who doesn’t shout and push their own agenda, who must have things done their way. I’m talking about a true leader who leads from a quiet, respectful, strong position of listening and working with others to do what is best. A quiet leader will encourage others to take time to think, to share their thoughts, to listen respectfully to the thoughts of others, and to discuss different opinions and concepts in that same respectful manner.
Leaders All Around Us
The leaders whose names we know are often in politics, big business, entertainment, sports, or have made a name for themselves in some way that puts them out front in the media. Other leaders that we might know more personally are our bosses, teachers, religious leaders, or coaches. Then there are the people we listen to and trust, but who might not have a title that reflects leadership, are not famous, and might not think of themselves as leaders, but to whom we trust for direction and advice. When you need help with something at work to whom do you turn? Often you will turn to a work colleague who will help and guide you or to your boss. I don’t know about you but in many of my jobs turning to the boss just didn’t happen because the boss was in a meeting.
Formal or Informal Leaders
Many of our formal leaders, those with a title indicating leadership are quiet and unassuming, yet excellent leaders. Other formal leaders might be outspoken, demanding, and insist on their way or the highway. And, of course, there is a lot in between. Depending on circumstances there is often nothing wrong with any type of leadership. We might have leadership styles we prefer – as either the leader or follower – but that doesn’t mean any are wrong or right.
Some people don’t think a quiet introverted person can be a good leader. One of the best physicians I ever worked with was a very quiet, gentle man. He was not an introvert, but he was quiet. Everyone listened and learned from this doctor. He did not have to raise his voice to get attention in our busy ICU which was generally noisy. ICUs tend to be noisy at the best of times with machines, oodles of people requesting assistance, doctors giving orders, tests being carried out, and families with their loved ones and talking to the healthcare staff. Imagine trying to be heard in such an area. One of the best ways is to speak quietly, don’t talk when it is not necessary, and make sure that what you are saying has meaning. Most of all, think before you speak. Being aware, being present, understanding yourself, your emotions, and the emotions of others all help guide you before you speak, and guide you in your responses. One way to do this is to learn about and develop Emotional Intelligence, to build qualities that improve our leadership ability, whether a formal or informal leader.
The Quiet Leader
Gregory (2010) stated:
Quiet leaders have earned the respect of their team; they display the appropriate level of confidence, are understanding, compassionate, and open-minded. They think laterally rather than hierarchically, are likeable, relatable, and approachable.
Quiet leaders know and understand the importance of relationships.
Quiet, introverted people can be good leaders. The characteristics often displayed by these people include:
- They are good listeners.
- They think deeply about goals and challenges.
- They let others shine. (It isn’t look what I did, it is “look what the team did”).
Wow! Don’t these characteristics sound reasonable and something we would like to see in all leaders? I have said many times we are all leaders. We are not all good leaders, most people – regardless of position – can improve their leadership skills, we all have room to develop and grow. If we were to all do just those three things; listening, paying attention to goals and challenges, and boosting up others we would be well on our way to being good leaders.
A Few Questions to Consider
For the next while, a week to a month, I urge you to pay attention to the people around you and ask yourself these questions:
- What leadership qualities are they displaying?
- Are they formal or informal leaders?
- Do they consider themselves a leader?
- Are the formal political and business leaders in our world demonstrating the kind of leadership qualities we have mentioned here?
- Are those formal leaders the kind of leader you would want to be or to follow?
- What leadership skills could those around you benefit from learning?
Learning never stops. Life-long learning is especially important and needed by anyone who identifies as a leader. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please join in a discussion on leadership, quiet leadership, and characteristics of a good leader.