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Are Quiet Leaders Effective?

Are Quiet Leaders effective? Absolutely but…..there’s always a but isn’t there?

One of my favorite mentors was a quiet leader, and also the person I learned the most from. He was highly intelligent, spoke with a quiet authority, and was open and honest. He was well respected by his employees and was the type of person that made you want to be your very best. I mostly appreciated how calm and insightful he always was. Thinking things through, no drama, no explosive anger. His district achieved good results. Sounds like a good leader, right?

Perception

My mentor was a good leader. Those who worked closely with him appreciated his capabilities.

What he shared with me was that he was not viewed well by his boss, who was a senior executive. Even though his district was doing well and he got good results, he was not well known outside of his own circle of direct reports. Most employees in the company had never spoken to him and many didn’t even know what he looked like.

He said that he was not a good public speaker so when there were divisional meetings he was not the one to stand up and make the impactful speeches. In his role it was also important to have connections within the community and be visible at public events. He did the minimal amount necessary but was never really comfortable in that environment. Unfortunately, in the long run, this impacted his career advancement.

Image Counts

During one of our last conversations before he moved to a different role, he shared his experience with me and told me that image counts. Whether you like it or not, you’re always being judged by senior leaders. And, like it or not, if you have career aspirations, how you speak publicly, your ability to network, your image, and visibility can affect that. It’s no secret that career advancement in an organization depends much on who you know, and even more on who knows you.

One of the first posts I wrote is Everyone is Watching you. I wrote that for this exact reason. Once you become a manager, everyone is watching what you do, and yes, they are judging you. And those in senior positions are assessing your capabilities from everything you say and do. I read an article by Nancy Daniels of Voicing It! that stated that 37% of the image you project is the sound of your voice. That’s an interesting and important figure. It’s not just about public speaking but all the interaction with teleconferencing now. If you want to always put your best self forward, your voice and your speech makes a difference. It doesn’t mean you need to run out and take voice lessons, but if you tend to mumble or talk quietly you can work on projection. There’s no need to say a lot, just make sure people hear what you have to say.

Who Knows You?

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of those leaders who came in and did the Chest Pounding, “Look at Me and all I’ve accomplished” speech.  To me, if you’re great at what you do, people will see that for themselves. However, there are times when you need to speak up and put yourself out there in order to be recognized

I’ve had the opportunity to sit at many talent management meetings. Here’s where leaders have a round table discussion about employee’s capabilities and those identified for career advancement. If you work for a large organization, this is happening at every level. The leaders at the table have a lot of input and are making decisions as to whether your name goes on “the list.” Do you want to be on the “high potential list?”

You may think that if you are good at what you do then you deserve to be there. But If no one other than your current manager knows who you are, your career journey may take longer, or may not even happen. Think about this – what if you’re current manager isn’t in good standing with their boss? That’s why expanding your network is necessary.

One Small Step

Quiet leadership is definitely effective. You can gain the respect of your employees and achieve great results. Just be cognizant that if you are looking for career advancement you may have to put yourself out there a little more than might be comfortable sometimes. If you avoid company events and networking, start by attending more of those. Or maybe try a public speaking course and Take a Leap and add a few public speaking engagements to your schedule. If that seems too much, just start with standing up at a conference and asking a question or being a little more vocal during a meeting.


Leadership means being aware of your development areas. You can still be yourself, with a bit of extra flair in those situations where it’s necessary to be noticed.

Have you worked for leaders who are quiet and effective? Are you a quiet leader? What have your experiences been?

As always, I welcome your comments and please share this if you’ve found it helpful.

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