Leadership means never having to say I’m bored. The more roles we play and the more expansive each role, the busier we are as leaders. There is literally always something to take in, act on, or communicate to others.
We know of great leaders who only sleep four hours, who never take a vacation, who multi-task to the nth degree. The correlation between this lifestyle and health and relationship problems is barely considered, admitted with a dismissive shrug. Remember—there are also great leaders who don’t live as if success requires constant adrenaline and so much…noise.
There’s external noise and internal noise (you know what I mean).
One powerful spiritual exercise is “the pursuit of solitude and silence,” writes Gordon McDonald in Ordering Your Private World. Meditation is a popular way to quiet the mind and master the barrage of internal noise, the voice in your head (my friend calls hers Chatty Cathy).
External noise can make it nearly impossible to quiet the mind. Entire industries have been created in modern times just for the purpose of controlling our exposure to noise. For example, my friend Lisa Schott, an acoustics expert, recognized that there was a need for practical solutions to noise issues. For over ten years she has operated and grown a successful business “Quietly Making Noise” which provides acoustical consulting and noise control services to the residential and commercial building industry, developers, architects, engineers, hotels, restaurants, office buildings, power plants, and more.
I’m waiting for her to add noise control solutions for my mind.
Until she does, I’ve found the best way to “get some peace and quiet” is to eliminate any distractions within my control and use time-blocking to build peace and quiet right into my daily schedule. The most important thing you can do is to start being more aware of noise. No matter what the source, it’s getting in your way of being the best leader you can be. Stop tolerating it.
Now let’s look at your own contribution to noise.
Many leaders are outgoing, but that doesn’t mean they have to be loud. In fact, some quieter people shy away from leadership positions because they feel they are not boisterous enough. What is actually true is that introverts and quiet people can be just as effective, if not more, than overly vocal ones.
Perhaps quiet leaders have more attention on setting an example. When a leader holds themselves to high standards. this can be admired and internalized by others. The quiet leader can have a powerful influence without saying much of anything if they show, vs. tell.
Obviously, if the quiet leader is not talking, they have much more opportunity to listen. When they allow others to speak and feel heard, everyone owns the mission and goals and will work harder towards the big-picture success.
No leader can succeed without trust-building. A quiet leader is not hovering and micro-managing anyone, and so they appear to have more confidence and trust in those that they lead.
If you can relate to being a quiet leader, that’s great—or perhaps you can lean in that direction a little and see what happens. This is not to suggest that you stop being yourself, no matter how flamboyant your personality. You just don’t want to ever become “part of the noise.” When you do speak, make it count if you want to be an effective leader.
When you quiet your mind, listen more, and trust others to do their part, you are much better-equipped to respond vs. react. You think first and when you have something to say, it’s more on-point and hopefully powerful enough to pierce through the noise that is always going to be there.
Don’t let noise deafen you to your own sense of self and leadership qualities.
Here’s the clincher: even the swift and mighty bald eagle is a calm, confident, and quiet master of the skies. Their loud war cry is a myth. Blame it on Hollywood.
You’ve got John Wayne riding through a pass in the High Sierras: the blinding sun, vast blue sky, the unmistakable silhouette of an eagle and that loud, piercing cry.
Turns out that raptor cry is that of a red-tailed hawk—it’s dubbed in.