“Leading Quietly” in a (Very) Loud World


“I’m not a leader.” 

Everyone aspires to be a leader. We read leadership books, take leadership classes, and search for mentors and sponsors who display and exudes “strong leadership”.

I’ve done all three things noted above, except finding a mentor or a sponsor. For some odd reason, I do feel “lost” about leadership. I don’t feel I am worthy of being called a leader. I am not the bold, loud, and dynamic type that most people dream to be.

Or is that a good thing?

I recently read “Quiet Power” by Susan Cain and “Leading Quietly” by Joseph L. Badaracco Jr.. In “Quiet Power”, Cain explores the ideas and skills that young introverts can utilize at school and home. The book is a great reference for adults who struggle with finding where they fit in the world as introverts.

Badaracco, in “Leading Quietly”, writes that our view of a leader usually falls under the archetype of  “hero”, and these heroes’ larger-than-life accomplishments is not what makes the world work. It is the individuals who make small yet meaningful decisions in areas away from the limelight each day.

Courtesy of Karl Moore, Associate Professor, McGill University Associate Fellow, Green Templeton College, Oxford University

These “quiet leaders” are people who choose responsible, behind-the-scenes action over being a public hero to resolve tough leadership challenges. Quiet leaders don’t fit the stereotype of the bold and gutsy leader, and they don’t want to. What they want is to do the “right thing” and in the “best interests” for their organizations, their coworkers, and themselves–but inconspicuously and without casualties.

My cousin, who works in higher education, commented, after interacting with a student,

“Introverts are leaders too”.

That statement made me reflect on the difficulties of viewing myself  as a leader.

I don’t consider myself a leader. I am a quiet person who observes and internally process things as they take place. Whether it’s in a meeting or at a party, I see and think about almost everything that intrigues me.

I am stickler for guidelines though I can flexible when bending the rules (slightly) are necessary. Though I never felt I had the confidence to be a dynamic leader. I lead by doing my job. In Badaracco’s view, I am “leading quietly”. I view complex problems and work towards finding complex solutions that are not a clean or easy.

Snoopy Introverted thinkers

Introverts are viewed as not good leaders because of their demeanor. They do not rush into decisions. They make assessments of a problem, address it to those in charge (unless they are in charge themselves), and set about making decisions that are not easy.

It is not about doing the “heroic” thing, as many are prone to do. It’s about doing the right thing when it is necessary and consistent, without seeking attention.

There are quiet leaders who toil in the mundane or pedantic world of work who face problems every day, not some big scandal. They succeed by managing their political capital, buying themselves time, bending the rules, and more.

Maybe I am a leader, but in a different way that may not be suitable for many.



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