“Quiet” might not be the word you would associate with a successful leader. The business world has a tonne of stories about big brash leaders – LOUD leaders – from Elon Musk to Donald Trump, running companies with an iron fist. These leaders get results through fear in most cases. Or at the least through having such strict structures in place that people don’t have to use their own initiative at all. They also have (at least in the above cases) a sizeable ruthless streak.
It can be intimidating to a new leader who might be naturally more introverted – to look at these examples. They can feel like they are ‘not leadership material’. But the truth is that in today’s workplaces, people are much less likely to respond to being ‘told what to do’.
There is a new and powerful leadership style emerging. It is what I call – quiet leadership.
What is Quiet Leadership?
Let’s clear up one misunderstanding about quiet leadership. It doesn’t mean they are necessarily timid, just that they are more likely to take action than talk about it.
They are quietly confident rather than having a high ego or arrogance. They would rather solve problems through logical thought and encouraging ideas from their teams, rather than imposition or micro-management.
Quiet leaders are open and approachable and tend to generate a lot of loyalty in their teams, as they have earned respect, not fear.
“My way or the highway” is the opposite of what quiet leaders do. They will often take longer to make decisions than more ;authoritarian’ styles, as they ant to get all the information first in order to make a better decision.
Leading by Example
This is a characteristic of quiet leaders. They won’t ask anyone to do something that they are not prepared to do, and they will stick to the ‘rule’ – company policies and procedures, so that they can lead by example.
These leaders have a natural empathy which cannot be manufactured. They are genuine and they care. People sense this from them – but the difference between an effective and an ineffective quiet leader is probably the leading by example.
This builds the trust that leads to highly effective teams.
Examples of Quiet Leadership
Bill Gates is a good example. He has this quiet style but its totally confident in himself – in fact he is purported to enjoy it when employees challenge him – even the most junior employee
Jacinda Arden – New Zealand’s premier – is an example of this leadership style. She has had a very effective first term – passing more laws in New Zealand than the last 4 governments, mostly due to her ability to listen and bring people together. She is visibly empathetic which makes her popular with the general public. It would be difficult to imagine her losing the upcoming election (though anything is possible in politics!).
Of course – there is no single style of leadership that always works, and leader have to be able to flex, given circumstances and what the people they are managing need. If there is a fire in the office, you won’t find a proper leader asking peoples opinions, they will be leading the way out of the building.
However, the quiet leadership model is one that fits our times far better than autocratic leadership. You don’t have to worry as a manager if your style is ore ‘quiet’ than loud. In fact, it is often the case that you will be more emotionally intelligent than your louder compatriots! Your team may perceive they are self-led, because of how your style impacts them. As long as you always lead by example, stand up for them when it is right to do so, and are authentic, you will be seen as a great leader and not a ‘weak’ one.
There is a fine line between people thinking you listen to their feedback because you can be manipulated, and understanding that you listen to them because it makes perfect sense to do so.