Leading through Silence and Questions

Silence and Questions

I ran across this quote the other day on LinkedIn:

“Your silence creates a vacuum for others to fill The key is to stay present and keep listening. The silence of holding steady is different from the silence of holding back.” Ronald Heifetz

I started thinking about the value of silence in leadership. In a leadership 4.0 world, teams are self-organized and self-led. So much of leadership then is mentoring and coaching. Too often, leadership has been tasked with having the answers. It’s good to have A answer, but not good to be the only one with an answer.

Sometimes, you need to lead with silence. Don’t be Mighty Mouse, who’s there to save the day. Be the one who leads others to the answer through questions and silence. What does the silence do?

  1. This forces your team to work together or even independently to come up with a solution.
  2. It reduces the dependency that they have on you as the leader.
  3. It forces them to learn other skills, to process things in new ways, and to solution. It builds an analytical mindset that prepares them for future positions.
  4. It empowers them (though I don’t like that word, it makes it seem like the leader gives them power that they themselves actually hold) for growth and and movement.

You lead them into this through learning to ask good questions. So it is a targeted silence, where you are not helping them uncover the solutions and teaching them the questions to ask. It’s easy to just answer the questions for them. But it creates a dependence on you, and you become the barrier to innovation and development.

So take some time to practice silence. Let others answer the question or figure out the problems. Teach the team through questions instead of telling them what to do. Give them the authority to make decisions and solve problems. It will create less problems for you down the road.

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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