You Don’t Have to be Loud to be Heard: The Power of Quiet Leadership

Have you ever watched The View – morning talk show free-for-all started by Barbara Walters and currently hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, Rosie Perez and Nicole Wallace? Don’t tune in if you have a headache because it will only get worse as you try to make out the points each host is trying to make as they interrupt, shout, insult and talk over one another. 

Regardless of who is on the panel, The View has been known for its loud, A-type personalities each trying to over shout the next to be heard. It is annoying, rude and hard to watch. 

But we have been taught that if you want to be heard you have to speak up. If you want to lead, you have to be loud. But is that really the case?

In a recent article entitled Women, You Don’t Have to Be Loud To Be Good Leaders, the author, Stephanie Beck, makes a case for the value of quiet leadership. Think Bill Gates. Think E. F. Hutton. 

You don’t need to be an outspoken, aggressive person to lead. It’s time for women to stop mimicking one version of an extroverted executive, stop pushing for conformity. It’s damaging on a personal level, and it hurts the women’s movement as a whole.

It comes down to respect. If your team respects who you are and what you have to say and the direction you are taking the team, you don’t have to be loud to lead. In an interview with Pierre Boivin who is CEO of Claridge Inc.(and former CEO of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, the most winning team in the the NHL), he answers the question “how does an introvert lead a team?”

These people lead by example, first and foremost. It is a style of leadership that we read and know about. They tend to be directive when it is required, and nobody knows, because they have so much respect from the room that it never gets out of the room…A team that is well bonded, that has a high degree of respect for each other, and is a real solid unit, you never hear what is going on in the room, so we try to judge from the outside. These leaders usually play 100 per cent all the time. They tend to be more team focused than individual focused.

Alyssa Gregory offers up the “must haves” of a quiet leader to be successful in her article How to Be a Quiet Leader:

Quiet leaders are powerful. They focus on action instead of words, and are able to generate excitement, encourage ownership and develop loyalty in unique ways. But it’s not easy to become an effective quiet leader. There are many factors that come into play if you are going to be successful at leading quietly, including:

  • Earning the respect of your team
  • Displaying confidence, but not overconfidence
  • Being understanding, compassionate and open-minded
  • Thinking laterally, not hierarchically
  • Having a likeable and relatable personality
  • Being approachable and easy to talk to

Message to the Shy

You may have believed in the past that because you are shy you do not have what it takes to be a leader. Not true. Also, keep in mind that just because someone is loud doesn’t make them a good leader. There are many positive attributes to quiet leaders, first being they tend to be good listeners. Think about a meeting you’ve attended; there is that one person who dominates the conversation and there is usually one that is sitting back taking it all in. When the quiet person speaks, people tend to listen because they share, not only their opinion, but how it reflects all they’ve heard around the table up to that point. 

Finally, in an article in Psychology Today, we learn five benefits of quiet leaders:

Frances B. Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, describes introverts as not being the same as shypeople, which are often fearful, anxious and self-centered. Rather, introversion is a hardwired orientation, Kahnweiler says, in which introverts process information internally, keep matters private, and avoid showing emotion and exhibit calm natures. She describes 5 key characteristics of introverted leaders:

  1. They think first and talk later. They consider what others have to say, then reflect and then respond;
  2. They focus on depth not superficiality. They like to dig deeply into issues and ideas before considering new ones; like meaningful rather than superficial conversations.
  3. They exude calm. In times of crisis in particular, they project reassuring, unflappable confidence.
  4. They prefer writing to talking. They are more comfortable with the written word, which helps them formulate the spoken word.
  5. They embrace solitude. They are energized by spending time alone, and often suffer from people exhaustion. They need a retreat, from which they emerge with renewed energy and clarity.

If you are quiet and shy, if you would classify yourself as introverted, please don’t discount your leadership abilities. Remember that it is self confidence, purpose, respect and a clear direction that make for effective leadership and you don’t have to yell to succeed!