The Ups and Downs of Quiet Leaders
Though a “knowledgeable observer” seems to defy leadership’s relational expectations, this management style benefits an organization in a number of ways. Quiet leaders:
- Don’t subject employees to tempers, berating treatment or outward anger. For many, this is a refreshing change in today’s harsh culture.
- Rarely invoke politics, favoritism or excuses in their decisions and policies.
- Are objective in their perspectives and choices, based on data and analysis. Emotionally influenced decisions, which can have tragic outcomes, are not part of the picture.
- Are humble and thoughtful. They put the needs of the organization and employees ahead of their own.
- Leave their people alone, giving them space. Micromanaging is not part of the quiet leader’s style.
While this may seem like utopia to many, these seemingly positive traits can invite long-term consequences if practiced to the extreme. Quiet leaders:
- May be so hands-off that project details can be overlooked to the point of failure.
- Can stay too distant from people and their interpersonal issues. Misbehavior, arguments, attitudes and low performance are often overlooked. This can lead to a chaotic and disunified culture, right under the leader’s nose.
- Are often untrusting of others’ perspectives and instincts, relying only on their own understandings. This limits engagement, unity and better ideas.
- Avoid feelings, relationships and strong emotions. Employees may be inadvertently ignored or left feeling unimportant. Their personal needs may go unaddressed.
- Typically don’t care to network or build alliances. This limits their influence and the means to gather support for their objectives (and the chances for long-term impact).
- Can be self-sufficient enough to avoid delegation. The ability to distribute work, balance resources and meet upper-management expectations suffers.
- Struggle to engage, inspire and motivate workers. People can be left with the feeling that only numbers matter, rather than relationships and the value of teamwork.
- Experience analysis paralysis, sidestepping decisions until an unrealistic need for confidence is met. Projects and progress are delayed.
Quiet leaders find fulfillment in their role as strategist, problem solver, vision caster or data cruncher. The esteem and respect they receive for this expertise is reward enough for them. Information is king, and they enjoy processing it to make effective decisions. Only purely objective viewpoints are acceptable to them, and they feel they must be thoroughly informed to perform to high standards. They strictly adhere to policies and procedures as they plan their route to success.
Fear of failure plagues most quiet leaders. Decisions are stressful for them unless all data are exhausted and all possibilities calculated. Procrastination is a viable option for them, as they can put off the prospect of failure.
These unfortunate attributes can put the quiet leader squarely at the center of severe organizational dysfunction and, ultimately, failure.
Quiet leaders lack the people skills that many consider necessary for effective leadership, but they nonetheless often find themselves in positions of authority. While they may seem like fish out of water in some respects, they can be coached and encouraged to expand their comfort zones, grow their trust and engage others.
Dr. Maynard Brusman
Consulting Psychologist & Executive Coach
Trusted Leadership Advisor
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