Why the Best Leaders Get Quiet

Rarely do we envision a silent leader. But one of the most valuable qualities in leadership is the ability to listen with respect and presence.

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Some months ago, my ten-year-old son lightly bumped his toe as we were hurriedly packing his bag to go to his dad’s for the week. It’s a regular routine given our amicable shared custody arrangement. Instead of continuing the task of packing, he crumpled to the floor in tears complaining about how much it hurt. In the past I would have insisted he stand up, brush it off, and finish packing. I’ve learned in recent years that telling my sons, or anyone for that matter, how to feel, is not my job. A big part of my job is to hold space, pay attention, and with some level of true presence, listen. Turns out this applies at work too.

What Does a Leader Sound Like?

When asked to envision a “leader,” you might imagine someone with a confident presence. Someone who is a comfortable public speaker. Someone who can hold a room (or a Zoom) with their spoken words providing direction or encouragement. I often think of the leaders I’ve supported in various C-level roles as the captain at the bow of a ship, navigating hazard-filled waters. Eyes on the horizon, anticipating the opportunities and challenges ahead. Getting us to…