The Case for Softly Spoken Leaders
Many people stereotype leaders as being loud and boisterous (I can be guilty of this). Some value those leaders who can get up in front of a crowd of hundreds of people and broadcast to thousands more. Reflecting on my own life, whether this be professionally, community work, or sports clubs I feel that I haven’t valued the effectiveness of softly spoken leaders as much as I should. All organisations need a combination of leaders from both categories and in between (it’s a spectrum). Below is my reasoning on the importance and effectiveness of softly spoken leaders based on those softly spoken leaders that I’ve had the privilege to work with.
Silence is an Opportunity for Reflection and Introspection
Softly spoken leaders don’t see silence as weakness but rather as an opportunity to allow others the space for introspection. They understand that the people they work with have many things happening in their lives: kids, relationships, personal issues, and career problems. This space allows examination of current situations and helps focus on the problems that are the most pressing without diverting too much energy or being anxious about other things. That is, softly spoken leaders allow the people they work with to see the big picture and address the most important issues they’re experiencing now.
Provide Clarity Through Economy of Words
Softly spoken leaders are able to provide a clear message by being thoughtful and economical with their words. They are able to convey a clear message by cutting away unneeded tangents, rants, or viewpoints. People who work with softly spoken leaders will find communication coming from them clearer and noise-free.
Separate Produced Work from the Individual
Criticising code or work produced by a person is different than criticising the person themselves. Softly spoken leaders are able to clearly distinguish the two when communicating with people. This behaviour enables healthy criticism and debate whilst maintaining personal integrity and respect amongst team members. When commenting on or criticising a piece of work, softly spoken leaders are able to focus on the work without putting the spotlight on the individual. This creates a greater receptiveness for improvement for team members and subsequently the produced work itself.
View Understanding and Empathy as a Strength
The softly spoken leaders I’ve worked with see personal relationships that are empathetic as an avenue that will eventually build productive teams across an organisation. All too often I hear people in leadership positions complaining that one-on-one catch ups are time consuming, wasteful, and not valuable. In fact, the opposite is true, personal relationships built on empathy and trust are able to drive wider team and organisational alignment very effectively.
Organisations should have a combination of both loud and quiet leaders. We should value the contribution of both personality traits and focus on the strengths each provide. In a world of information overload from social media, 24/7 news cycles, and a never-ending stream of notifications, it’s very easy to undervalue softly spoken people and leaders. We should focus on the value these people provide such as: being thoughtful with their words, providing clear messaging, and being empathetic. All these traits are an advantage to any organisation seeking to create innovative and healthy places to work.