Dear Unemployed Graduates,
A few days ago I was participating in an assessment day interview for a major company’s graduate program. I was sitting there trying to answer as accurately as possible to the interviewers questions, when she asked me a question I am very passionate about:
What is the most valuable characteristic of a leader?
To which I answered, without hesitation: silence.
My answer struck a chord with my interviewer as she slightly raised her eyebrows.
‘Silence?’ she says.
We often think of leaders as people who know where we are, where we need to go and tell us the chronological steps necessary to achieve the desired outcome. We rely on the leader to offer guidance and often that is interpreted as being told exactly what to do.
I will admit, this is a good leader, but not a great one.
I believe that a great leader knows where we are, where we need to go and asks the team what they think is necessary to do in order to achieved the desired result. Therefore, during the bulk of the conversation the leader is as silent as a lamb and listens to the team.
In this instance the leader isn’t the conductor of the train, but the tracks; simply there to give the team the necessary structure to get from point A to B.
Let’s look at a modern definition of leadership to understand why:
Leadership is the process of social influence that maximises the efforts of the team in order to achieve a common goal.
The most important part of that definition is social influence. Leadership is more about social interaction than knowing exactly what to do and disseminating information.
The work force is slowly becoming more and more comprised of millennials, the future majority; therefore, a leadership style has to cater to this generation. A generation that craves the desire to make a difference in all that they do.
Here is how silent leadership can create the perfect work environment:
The team feels a part of the process and solution
The silent leader asks what are the necessary actions needed to achieve a desired goal therefore, it is up to the team to create solutions. This installs free flowing conversation and if the plan is successful then a real sense of achievement is given.
Leader observes the thought process of the team
As the leader takes the back seat in the conversation, he/she can observe how the team reasons through the problem and how they form solutions. This allows the leader to understand exactly where there might be sticking points in the processes.
By understand how your team reasons, a leader can prevent or find the root of the problem quickly and effectively.
New Ideas can come to light
The main goal of silent leadership is to let conversation flow. By doing this, new ideas can come to light, some that the leader hasn’t even considered.
It is the leader’s job to stimulate and influence people. Stimulating thought and making people feel appreciated is the main characteristic of being a great leader. Allowing people to think for themselves and guiding them through structured thought is the type of leader that millennials crave. All of this can be achieved through the minimal use of words and telling people what to do.
As you can imagine, the interviewer didn’t say much. This is maybe because I spoke for 10 minutes and wanted me to shut up or maybe because she was in total accordance. I’ll let you decide.