Silence is Golden for an Effective Leader

business (11)Leaders tend to be people who are skilled with words.  They’re often equally comfortable with presenting to a large group, facilitating a contentious staff meeting or coaching one on one.  They’re counted on to know what to say in awkward social situations when other people freeze up.  In part, their jobs are to smooth over problems, break the ice and rally the troops.

These skills are one of the primary reasons they’re identified as leaders.  People who have good verbal skills convey authority and confidence.  Being able to use the right words is often, sometimes mistakenly, seen as thoughtfulness, intelligence and insight.  However, just because they’re excellent talkers doesn’t mean they’re effective leaders.

Many struggle with pausing, listening and letting others speak.  They have a “me” mindset that’s fostered by their job and facility with language.  They mostly have one-sided conversations and experience difficulty with two-sided ones.  A productive leader will pay attention to, learn from and correct these three common mistakes which unproductive leaders make.

Uncomfortable with silence – People in general feel uncomfortable with silence, but for a variety of reasons leaders particularly struggle with it.  A moment of silence is the way someone gathers his thoughts, formulates questions and processes information.  It’s vital to learning and understanding information.  An innovative leader learns the tool of silence and teaches it to others.

It’s really not all about you – Someone taking a breath or pausing in a conversation isn’t a signal to start talking again.  Truly motivating leaders don’t have to be the center of attention or control the conversation.  They’re able to wait out the moment and stay focused on what the other person is saying.

Know it all – Leadership is not synonymous with expertise and secure leaders know they don’t have to have all the answers or understand all the questions.  They surround themselves with people who do know the issues and the answers.  “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt” – Abraham Lincoln

Talking is less than one half of communication and successful leaders are good communicators, not just good talkers.  Most people, especially those in leadership positions, believe that because they’ve spoken communication has resulted.  Unfortunately, this isn’t accurate – the examples of excellent talkers who are ineffective communicators and leaders are legion.  It’s important to remember that the biggest problem people have with communication is assuming it has taken place.