The Influence of Your Example
Is there a Secret Ingredient for Getting the Leadership Promotion?

The Leadership Influence of Your Silence



Anyone who is a parent or has looked after kids knows that silence can be a good thing or a bad thing.  If you’re trying to get a small child to lay down and take a nap, silence can be good or bad.  It could mean they’ve finally fallen asleep or that they’ve gotten up to play with a favorite toy.  What is the first thing that goes through your mind when you have a group of kids playing rambunctiously in another room and the sounds drop from laughter to hushed whispers?  Silence.  Can be good or bad.

Employees can have the same reaction when their management gets quiet.  Your silence as a leader can influence in two different ways.  Good or bad.

Good 

Most leaders believe that their position requires them to be the “spokesperson” and to give direction when there are challenges to overcome.  But being silent could prove to be advantageous in developing the expectation and culture of problem solving.  You can communicate the facts about an issue, the parameters in which the team needs to operate and that you are interested in their ideas.  Being still allows them to think through the issues, to problem solve and discover potential solutions. Your silence begins to empower them and frees you from handling challenges they are capable of working through.

Bad 

I’m sure that you’ve had an occasion when there was a misunderstanding with a close friend and when you’ve asked about it, you received no response.   Apparently silence is a preferred way of informing others that you’re angry and this is a way to punish them.  Your silence as a leader, in times of stress or disappointment, may cause them to think you are angry.  The feeling of isolation that results is very detrimental to the trust needed to work through those difficult times.

You might not be upset and simply need some time to gather the facts and consider the options.  It could also be that you are not even aware of an issue that needs to be discussed; and your perceived silence on the matter is interpreted as anger.  Whatever the circumstances, don’t let this kind of silence persist.  Engage the appropriate individuals in a conversation, ask the questions that need to be asked and practice the “GOOD” silence.

- Steven Iwersen

P.S. I'd really appreciate your thoughts and comments about this series on the Influence of a Leader.  Pick your favorite and join the conversation, I look forward to hearing from you.

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