Leadership Perspective: Reverse Paradigms, Speaking vs. Silence

Silence is golden.

Rests in music are not just an absence of sound, they are important punctuations in the music. Rests provide clarity for what just occurred and prepare us for what is about to happen. – Hugh Ballou

SilenceWe fill every moment of every day…

We complain about how much we have to do…

We share our anxiety with everyone we come in contact with…

We end each day with an uncompleted list…

Does this sound familiar? I can relate to this list because it’s my list. I recently fell into that trap of burying myself with good intentions. Yes, everything on my list is important. Yes, everything on my list is essential. Yes, everything on my list compounds my anxiety. Once I get anxious, my thinking is compromised, I try to do too much, and I talk too much. Over-talking is a sign that I am anxious.

I learned early in my career as a coach to listen. I love the expression that coaching is 90% listening and the rest is mostly listening. I also learned to leave 3 seconds or more of silence after a client has finished talking. This silence is clarifying for both of us. First, it clarifies that I have, indeed, heard the person. Second, it clarifies for me how to formulate my response. Lastly, it clarifies that I care about that person and what they are saying.

Gaining clarity is essential to effective leadership. I observe leaders who are brilliant over-talking when working with others, either clients or potential clients. I observe that this over-talking clouds their understanding of the situation and skews their response into advice that is not accurate for the situation.

As a musician, I appreciate the moments of silence in great masterworks. As a speaker, I have learned to use silence in keynote presentations for emphasis. As a facilitator of group planning processes, I have learned that things that matter happen in the silence, and the leader must pay attention. As a worship planner, I understand that carefully placed silence is valuable.

It’s the noise of daily process that can create anxiety and confusion. It’s our job as leaders to create the space for others to connect to us, to each other, and to their excellence in the group process. Too much noise will often block the subtle nuances that might mean the difference between excellence and failure.

I plan silent moments in my day to think…to reflect…to plan…to breathe…and to restore my energy. I am better when I follow this discipline of silence in my day.

Being the best you can be doesn’t necessarily mean that you toot your own horn.


Hugh Ballou

The Transformational Leadership Strategist TM

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(c) 2015 Hugh Ballou. All rights reserved.
Hugh Ballou (Author)