Anyone can be a leader but not all leaders need to fit the common trope that a leader has to be competitive, self-assertive, or use high-pressure tactics to get things done.
The concept of servant leadership is not new and thanks to work done by Susan Cain, who wrote the book Quiet, the world recognizes the need for different kinds of leadership more than ever.
You can be a quiet leader if that suits your personal style and the area that you work in. And in this post, I’ll share a few ways you can practically use a quiet style to lead without losing effectiveness.
Lead by example
Many leaders talk about how they want their business to run but they seldom act in a way that’s consistent with their words.
To lead by example, you need to drop into internal conversations. When an employee asks a question and you see that it hasn’t been answered, then help them out. Let people know you’ve noted their problems even if you can only work at it later.
Likewise, step in move conversations away from inappropriate channels. And be vocal about standing by important values.
It’s when people see you participate and work by your values that they’re inspired to follow along.
Ask questions and take time to make a decision
Business and work stories highlight leaders who make fast decisions and go by the gut. But quiet leaders who do the opposite and are successful (more often) also need to be recognized.
Taking the time to gather information and think about the situation can help you listen to your inner voice – a voice that’s often speaking gently and quietly.
So, when you’re in a challenging situation and need to make a decision, feel free to talk to people and spend some time thinking about what’s happening.
By relying on your intuition, logical thought processes, and to the data available, you’re likely to make the right decisions.
A key part of quiet leadership is active listening. An active listener is someone who gives their full attention to the speaker. They remove distractions and they avoid judgments and interruptions until later once they’ve heard what people have to say.
It’s important to listen to both your employees and your audience members. If you have a large company and can’t have one-on-ones with every person, then consider using an employee feedback form. Send questions and ask your employees to give their honest opinions. You’d get even more feedback if you allowed users to send information anonymously.
Similarly, it’s important to listen to external stakeholders and customers. Pay attention to what people say on social media and send out surveys to your customers.
When you offer ways for people to communicate with you, you get information you might not otherwise receive and you can learn from it.
Create goals but don’t micromanage
One reason why leaders are hesitant to adopt a more servant leadership style or a quiet approach is that they worry that goals won’t be met.
What helps is to set up two supporting factors in great detail:
- Goals and KPIs for employees that are crystal clear
- Project management tools that let you track the progress of each person’s work
When you have clear goals, your employees know exactly what is expected of them and they’ll work towards meeting those objectives. This removes a lot of friction in communication and supports remote work.
And then you need online project management tools or even just spreadsheets that you can edit and share online. Having your team use these tools to notify that they’ve completed a job ensures that their work is recognized and accounted for.
With these supports in place, you won’t have to micromanage your team. You can give them the freedom to work in a way that feels good to them and this makes for a better work environment and loyal employees.
Your team may find their own voice and come up with ideas and ways to improve work to the benefit of the whole business.
The world needs many different types of leaders to manage challenges that come in different forms. Quiet leaders are just as much real leaders as ‘alpha’ leaders.
Quiet leaders ask questions and listen. They take time to understand a situation before making decisions. And they encourage others to lead. Some quiet leaders like Nelson Mandela have changed the world.
If you’ve been uncomfortable with leadership because you perceive that it’s an aggressive role, then this post may be for you.
Leaders can be quiet. And quiet leaders can be effective and powerful too. The best thing about quiet leadership is that it empowers people. Work with the tips given here and you can become an effective and quiet leader who gets things done.