When Leaders Should Stay Quiet
It’s not that “leaders should be seen and not heard,” but it is fair to say that they often should be heard less and seen more. That’s because people believe and “listen” to the actions of leaders more than their words.
It is a balancing act for leaders to know just how much to talk versus when to listen. Extroverted leaders have a particular challenge because they talk to think as an important part of processing information and ideas for them. They risk grabbing too much airtime and shut others down.
Conversely, introverted leaders think to talk and are often challenged to communicate enough information at a frequency that is conducive to their followers’ needs.
Consider these 10 tips for leaders to stay quiet when:
- It’s emotional – people need to believe they are being heard. Ask how you can help rather than assume you know.
- You come in during the middle of a story – no need to embarrass yourself!
- You are wondering if what you’ll say is offensive – if you have to wonder, then it probably is.
- You are tempted to “fix” the person’s problem.
- Someone asks you a question that you should not or cannot answer fully or accurately.
- You think your idea is the best thing since shelled walnuts.
- You ask a question. It is a good idea to wait and listen for the answer.
- You feel yourself jumping to conclusions without much information – not a good way to get your exercise!
- You’ve been drinking, partying, etc. and someone from work calls you. Better yet, stay off the phone.
- You are angry or upset. First, take time to figure out why you feel the way you do and then determine the best course of action to resolve the problem.
It’s remarkable how much one learns when one stops talking and begins listening. Most communication is non-verbal, making it critical to learn how to follow the “lay of the land” so as to be able to lead appropriately to meet the situation.
Leaders make fewer wrong assumptions and decisions when they ask more than they tell. For example, consider the leader who was unable to say he did not know. He gave anyone an answer on any question asked of him. It would have been so easy – and so correct – to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll find out and get back to you.” Instead, he simply made it up along the way. When was wrong, his credibility and reputation nose-dived. He wasn’t stupid, just misguided about what is expected of a good leader, including telling the truth.
Consider a different leader who asked questions and listened intently to the answers. People told her the truth because she honored them and their stories by active listening and thoughtful responses. She observed, was rarely fooled, and did not claim to have all the answers. Her credibility and reputation were beyond reproach.
Of course, leaders need to speak, engage others, share ideas and make decisions. It’s not an accident that the ratio of “listening” body parts to “speaking” body parts is 4:1 (ears and eyes: mouth). That’s why wise leaders sense, know, and understand when it’s time to listen and when it’s time to talk.
Leadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Bahar Hewertson, CEO of Highland Consulting Group, Inc., has spent her entire career revealing myths and honing truths as to what makes a leader successful in their role…or not. Revered for her no nonsense, nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach, Hewertson helps both emerging and expert leaders boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business, including service, sales, education/training, productivity, and profits, to achieve or exceed organizational and career goals. She may be reached at www.highlandconsultinggroupinc.com.
Written for TrainingIndustry.com