Centre for Behavioral Excellence
The Noise of Silent Leadership
The meeting room was full of anxious faces and hushed whispers. Adam was a bundle of nerves, as he entered the room and took his place at the head of the table. Mustering up his courage, he cleared his throat and gave his team the bad news – the customer had withdrawn a $10 million project, citing dissatisfaction in the service delivered. As Delivery Head, he had tried his best to change the customer’s mind and retain the business. That did not work and soon the escalations converted to threats of retraction and a decision to terminate the contract.
Adam was dreading this meeting with his team, but had prepared himself for any kind of reaction. Even though he invited questions, most of them just listened anxiously scanning Adam’s face for signs of any further bad news.After a few short conversations on winding up the project activities, the team dispersed and Adam came back to his desk with a heavy heart.
The stress of the last few months seemed to show on his face. Now, a big question that flashed in front of his eyes was – what happens to the team? This handpicked team was assembled for this project inanticipation of gaining market share in a new domain, and its success meant a great deal. Dealing with this failure was tough and meant many collateral damages. Opening his laptop, Adam started updating the incomplete team reassignment list and started typing emails frantically.
In the coming few weeks, he worked tirelessly with the resource team to get his group reassigned to various projects that were available. To his surprise, most of his team members expressed a wish to stay back and await the next opportunity to work with him. Unaware of the effect he had on his team, HR and the resource group head informed him that his team was quite reluctant to leave him. They said that they were not likely to get an opportunity again to work with a leader who is ‘so inspiring and caring, and focusses on their growth’.
Have you also worked with a leader with whom you wanted to work, no matter what? Have you been one, with team members revering you?What exactly is this x-factor, which creates a kind of magnetism around leaders?
The silent and invisible core
Some call it charisma; some charm. Whatever the quality, it comes from the very ‘being’ of the leader. The being that is manifested in what the leader is ‘doing’. Let us understand this better. Leaders who function more from their ‘being’ consistently speak and motivate in a way that affects their teams positively, taking all necessary action steps to drive results. They package their message in a way that is convincing and influential. They have an aura, subtle unspoken ways in which they inspire. While there are many leaders who ‘do’ right things, leaders who are ‘being’ in their doing, do so with conviction and passion. They feel connected with the ultimate objective of teamwork and drive it tirelessly without losing focus. If we look at Adam, his genuine concern and support towards his team members set him apart from other leaders. Some other qualities that he constantly displayed were integrity, assertiveness and sensitivity towards the organizational culture. This made him delicately balance the tight rope walk of keeping his seniors impressed and his team engaged. Here are some more qualities that define the ‘being’ of a successful leader:
- Values based leadership: A leader who stands up for the values s/he believes in, is likely to get a wider followership, as they ‘walk the talk’ and expect the same from others.
- Optimist mindset: In the face of complacency, mediocrity and failure, a leader who leads with his being is more likely to focus on the future and let go of the past. A die-hard positive outlook and resilience to snap out of negativity are at the core of a charismatic being.
- Care: Sensing the need of the environment and people around comes from the ‘being’ of a leader. She is able to pick up relevant emotional signals that guide her to engage in an empathic conversation with a follower or stakeholder.
- Choice: ‘Doing’ things is associated with the external responses and actions. However, this choice to ‘do’ comes from within. A leader, who can map the appropriate purpose behind making decisions and taking steps, is generally closely connected with their being.
- Peace: ‘Doing’ things constantly is often followed by stress and anxiety, while ‘being’ gives access to the reasons for stress and your innermost thought processes. Learning to just ‘be’ in a situation – be who you are, be what you feel and stand for, is a catalyst for positive action.
All the above qualities that are at the core of‘being’ a leader make much more noise in the leadership of an individual, more than what a leader says or professes. Followers generally respond to this noise, and not to what the leader actually says or does. Even if the situation is as dire as failure or lost hope, a leader who functions from their ‘being’ is able to give hope and reinstate purpose. This meaningful connect with followers is perhaps the most beautiful gift of silent leadership.
As it is said, we all are ‘human beings’ and not ‘human doings’. Hence, leadership thrives on a leader’s ability to establish a connect with people at a human level. Here are quotes that talk about the uniqueness of the ‘being’:
- ‘Doing is never enough if you neglect Being.’ – Eckhart Tolle
- ‘The highest level of creativity consists in being, not doing. When the being is intense enough, when the words are spoken enough, when the thoughts are thought enough, the doing will automatically follow.’ – Marianne Williamson
- ‘Being, not doing, is my first joy.’ – Theodore Roethke
- ‘Treasure yourself for your being, not for your doing’. – Gina Greenlee
- ‘Doing good business – Being ethical, being transparent, being caring – makes a difference’. – Shari Arison
- ‘Being cool is being your own self, not doing something that someone else is telling you to do.’ – Vanessa Hudgens
- ‘I take a lot of pride in being myself. I’m comfortable with who I am.’ – James McAvoy