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Silence is a Leadership Trait

Leadership implies action, movement, and, for many, it implies noise. We often think that leadership is a force that is constantly in motion and in danger of becoming overplayed and burnt out. Leadership is defined as a series of actions, movements, and maneuvers. Rarely do we concentrate on the reflective, attentive, and contemplative elements crucial to leadership. The introspective moments of leadership are key tools in sustaining momentum.

Between the words, between the actions, between the political strategies, leaders must create silence. Silence that allows for ideas to be absorbed. Silence that allows for emotions to settle. Silence that allows for bonding and healing. Silence that allows people to sit unthreatened and unchallenged.

Smart leaders know how to create these gentle gaps both for themselves and their colleagues. The best part is, it’s not that hard. Creating silence simply requires stepping away from debates, initiatives, lectures, meetings, adjustments, and plans. It’s a period that is filled with conversation and interaction that isn’t absorbed with pressing issues and problems. Instead, these conversations are informal and happen spontaneously. They give people the chance to relax, reflect, and recharge.

Emily Dickinson said, “Saying nothing…sometimes says the most.” Silence can be a powerful tool.  Leaders who take time to create quiet periods can give people a feeling of calm and confidence. It’s an exercise in self and organizational reflection that inspires thoughtful action. Leaders that can appreciate the value of silence can move forward and sustain momentum by taking pause.

Still, silence and an environment of calm can have its setbacks. There’s always the danger of an organizational respite turning into an extended siesta. Constant reflection and contemplation can drag coalitions around in circles. Taking time off for silence can lead to entropy. Silence can shape a period of reflection, but it can also stall organizations.

Taking time to create silence is crucial to leadership. While leadership is about execution, getting things done, and action it also requires time to pause and reflect. It demands informal conversations and the space to create friendships and bonds.

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