Quiet Leadership

“I learned from Maximus to do my duties quietly and without complaining, while being dignified and charming” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 1.15.

What happened to leading from the front with humility? Not always looking for recognition. Never complaining about how hard you have it. Dealing with issues without looking for recognition or a pat on the back.

Now it seems every leader has to puff out their chest or announce every minor accomplishment on social media. It’s like the football player that has to celebrate every first down. Act like you’ve been there before.

In the classic Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses a Level 5 leader. A Level 5 leader has the combination of humility and indomitable will. Leaders who do whatever needs to be done to complete the job and don’t look for the credit.

In Think Again, Adam Grant describes confident humility, as “having faith in our capability while appreciating that we may not have the right solution or even addressing the right problem.” Leaders who believe in themselves but look to others for help in solving difficult problems.

Puffing out your chest with every accomplishment may feed your ego but will it inspire people to follow you? Maybe for a while but eventually they will get tired of you taking all the credit.

I am not saying leaders can’t celebrate the accomplishments of their team. The key word there is team. No one in leadership ever accomplished anything alone. Make it about those around you, not you.

Civil Discourse

Where has civility gone in our society? You don’t have to agree with what’s going on, but why are you screaming about it. Discourse is slowly dying in this country.

I have no problem with people being passionate about their beliefs. However there is a way of being passionate and civil that seems to be lost on many of us.

If you’re going to be rude, I am unlikely to listen to you. If you scream at me, call me names because I don’t agree with you, I will turn you off. So even if you have valid points they are not making it into my brain for me to even consider.

As Adam Grant discusses in his book, Think Again, we spend too much time being a preacher, a prosecutor, or a politician. We preach to protect and promote our ideas. We prosecute when we see a flaw in someone’s argument and want to prove them wrong. We politic to win others over to our side. In all three of those cases what are we not doing? Listening.

The first thing we all need to do is listen, really listen. We need to listen before we respond. We need to listen with empathy. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Does that always change our opinion or response? Not always, but maybe, just maybe the other person says something you agree with. Then what.

Then you must modify your opinion. Very few things in life are set in stone. Adam Grant describes this as thinking like a scientist. A scientist is willing to take in new information and modify their opinion based on that new information.

We will never always agree, but that doesn’t mean we have to scream at each other. We do have an obligation to change our opinion if and when information is presented to us that shows we are wrong. To do that we need to listen. For others to want to listen to you at the very least you need to be civil.