The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Conversation

February 19, 2020

Recall the last conversation you had with a close friend. Who did most of the talking, you or the friend? Did the one who talked the most have more influence? We usually think that the person who talks most in the conversation has the most influence. This is true sometimes, but not nearly always!

Effective leaders learn that many times in conversation silence is the wisest action. They consider these words from Proverbs, The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues (Proverbs 17:27-28).

Servant leaders learn that the sound of silence in a conversation demonstrates leadership.

Silence in conversation shows self-control. “…uses words with restraint” (17:27). Everyone wants their voice to be heard. Even the most introverted personalities have something to say. In conversation it is natural and easy to keep talking. How many times do we “bite our tongue” to not say what is really in our minds? To be silent shows great self-control. It is difficult and takes restraint.

Leaders often believe that they have more to say than others and their vision encourages them to talk more than others. Leaders without self-control will soon dominate a conversation. The conversation becomes all about their thoughts and ideas with very little room for the other person(s).

But servant leaders learn that influence can actually increase when words decrease. Silence allows time for listening to the other. A simple question can open the door to the other person’s heart and bring help to them. Servant leaders show self-control as they are silent in a conversation.

Silence in conversation shows security. “…whoever has understanding is even-tempered” (17:27). The “even-tempered” person is able to speak when needed but equally able to keep quiet! This person is not trying to impress others with many words and they are not worried about what others think. They are willing to listen and value the other person because they already know themselves and their own calling. This ability shows great personal security.

A leader who talks too much may simply be an extroverted personality. But the leader may also be insecure and feel a need to impress everyone around them with their talking. They keep talking to show others that they are significant. Servant leaders can be silent with no agenda to prove and nothing to hide. Servant leaders demonstrate security as they are silent in a conversation.

Silence in conversation shows wisdom.Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent” (17:28). Everyone knows that fools talk a lot, so silence is quickly associated with a wise person. If a fool could keep quiet, others would be fooled and think he is wise! This verse has produced the saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Wisdom may be expressed in good words, but it may also be expressed in silence! Servant leaders learn that sometimes the wisest thing to say is nothing at all! The other person may not yet be ready for the great idea you have. They may not be ready to change. They may not yet be able to understand what you want to communicate. Or it may be that your own heart is not yet at the right place to speak out the words that are in your mind. Servant leaders show wisdom as they are silent in a conversation.

As servant leaders demonstrate self-control, personal security, and wisdom, they increase their influence with others. They discover that knowledge is more revealed in restraint than in volume of words. Silent leadership speaks loudly in conversation! Servant leaders move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • When is the last time I said something I later regretted? How might the outcome have been different if I had shown restraint and kept quiet?
  • How does my personal security impact the way I talk? Am I able to be quiet with no need to impress others, or do I need to talk a lot to show them who I am? What impact does this have on my leadership?
  • Is my wisdom most often expressed in words or in silence? How has this impacted my leadership and is there a way I need to change?
  • Reflect on your schedule for today. In what conversations might God be inviting you to speak less? Try it, then reflect on how it felt and what impact it had on the relationship!

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

Copyright, Global Disciples 2020.