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Article by Graham White

As increasingly so called “great leaders” fall on their swords, and as we see another generation of so called “most influential’s” having to hang their head in shame as their actions don’t match their proclaimed values, I am reminded in my quiet retirement of the greatest leader I have ever had.

I’ve had them all, the (INL) the inspiring leader, the (CL) the challenging leader, the (ML) the motivating leader, the (LL) the Loud leader, the (IML) the imposing leader, the (BL) the bullying leader, the (DL) the dishonest leader, the (OPL) the over promoted leader, but the greatest leader I even had was the (QL) the quiet leader. An individual with a Midas touch on leadership. Every goal achieved, every challenged overcome with a character that was beyond reproach.

My quiet leader was a naturally quiet person by nature. They did most of their recharging and re-energising alone with their hobbies. Some less intuitive subordinates at the start of the appointment of our new leader even had the audacity to consider that their quietness meant they didn’t have an opinion about things and that they weren’t really leader material. But for any who took the time to watch we had a real leader who was using the early days wisely listening and processing before they acted…….

Our quiet leader’s approach to leadership was truly remarkable and influential on everyone in the team. Even those who tried to use the silences to speak over and undermine the direction we were being taken in. When called upon to speak up at major events and staff meetings our new leader was an excellent speaker a classic extrovert inspiring and motivating the workforce, but when working closely with their direct reports and senior management team they couldn’t have been more different and the Boardroom became a quiet and thoughtful place were issues were raised, addressed and resolved without a single decibel out of place.

Being an HRD with a background in psychology I just had to analyse and profile this amazing leader. I needed to try and map out their key leadership styles and behaviours in the hope that I could bottle these attributes and copy and share with others what we saw as our organisation turned in some of its most amazing results from a leader with such a quiet demeanour.

Here are a few of the key attributes I captured watching and collaborating with this amazing individual. You might be amazed at what these attributes are, nothing special, nothing innovative just solid natural leadership.

  • They wrote down everything they planned to share with their team either in management team meetings or in one to one’s. They almost always knew what they wanted to say so it didn’t always appear to be read, but you knew they had prepared every word and so every word mattered and needed to be heard, understood, discussed, and acted upon.
  • They never sent emails other than to invite you to visit or to ask if you were free and they would “pop over.”
  • Every interaction needed to be live and tonal.
  • They never corrected, disagreed, or reprimanded anyone in the team other than in private, even those that the rest of felt deserved it.
  • They never gave a random opinion. When asked they would seek the reason for the question and take the asker on a short journey of discovery which almost always ended with them realising, they knew the answer already and the leader’s opinion was not needed.
  • On the very rare occasion that a self-discovery failed to take place our QL would respectfully give an opinion that was laden with guidance and direction as to where the solution was to be found.

My QL led by quiet example, they might have been quiet but their behaviour, their standards and their moral compass showed every one of us what it truly meant to be a respected and trusted leader. As the world of work is trying to navigate the new, exciting, and evolving workplace I believe one thing does not need to change. We need our future leaders to learn from the best, to avoid the pitfalls of the failed and to realise it is not always the loudest chicken the wins the most corn.

Experienced Director of HR having held executive Director posts in a number of Public and Private organisations and now retired.

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