The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Reflection

January 22, 2020

Servant leaders learn that leadership is not always about talking. They acknowledge that, at times, what is done in silence may have more impact than what is done in public speaking! They embrace the call of the writer of Lamentations to spend some time in silent reflection:

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope (Lamentations 3:26-29).

This advice was written to a people mourning the destruction of Jerusalem, their capital city. During that crisis comes this call to wait quietly, sitting in silence. This passage doesn’t appear to be material for an article on leadership! But it contains nuggets of truth for every servant leader willing to slow down enough to listen. Silent reflection can shape the everyday life of the servant leader in several ways.

Silent reflection encourages waiting. “It is good to wait quietly…” Leaders are people of action, goals and achievements. They want progress! Their “to do” list calls loudly for action and waiting quietly is not usually on the list!

But waiting, in silent reflection, “is good” and brings many benefits. Time in silence calms the soul. It provides perspective. It reminds the leader that God is in control, not themselves. Waiting in silence slows a leader down and ironically prepares him/her for action. Many leaders, including myself, find great benefit in a daily discipline of spending a few minutes in silence and stillness before the activities of the day. Servant leaders prepare for action by waiting in silent reflection.

Silent reflection encourages solitude. “Let him sit alone in silence…” Leadership almost always happens with others. Leaders want to be with and work through others. Many leaders find it very uncomfortable to be alone. Solitude brings to the surface questions which the leader may not want to face. Silence in solitude with no activity or titles to cover the inner turmoil can make a leader feel naked and exposed. Questions of motives, purpose and direction are raised in solitude. Reflection in solitude helps a leader acknowledge his/her own emotions, pain, and struggles. Solitude raises hard questions that we often want to escape through noise and accomplishments.

This scripture encourages leaders not to run from solitude but to embrace it as a gift. Solitude is a gift that prepares the heart for relationship with others. Leaders who have not learned to be alone in solitude become noisy, dangerous leaders who cover their own insecurities with their leadership role. Servant leaders prepare to engage with others by spending time alone. 

Silent reflection encourages pondering. “Let him bury his face in the dust…” What a strange request! No one likes dust; we try as much as possible to avoid it and get away from it. But God invites us to take some time to “bury” ourselves in the painful dust. As we stop in silent reflection, we see the problem of the dust. We feel the pain. We reflect. We ponder the hard questions of life.

Leaders often seek solutions to the pain of others and search for ways to alleviate suffering or injustice. This passage encourages us to first take time in silence with our face in the dust before moving into action. Servant leaders prepare to meet the needs of those who hurt by first silently pondering their pain.  

Silent reflection is hard work! It will not happen by default especially in this digital age. But silent leadership speaks loudly in quiet reflection. Servant leaders move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • Reflect on the Psalmist’s words, “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10). Why do we need to be still to know that He is God? What happens to our perception of ourselves and our perception of God when we are quiet? What does it say about me if I find it difficult to be still?
  • Do I reflect quietly at all? Enough? What regular rhythms of reflection do I need daily, weekly, periodically? What keeps me from silent reflection? How did this impact my leadership?
  • When was the last time I was alone with myself and no distractions of phones, email, or media? What does this reveal about my lifestyle? In what way should I change?
  • What happens to me internally when I am all alone? What does this reveal about who I am?
  • Do I have a way to record and remember my thoughts, reflections and insights from time alone? If not, should I keep a journal of this time?
  • Is there a danger that I spend too much time in silent reflection and move too slowly to act? If so, what do I need to do to balance reflection and action?

 In the next issue, we’ll look at the sound of silent leadership…in prayer.

Copyright, Global Disciples 2020.