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.

The Sound of Silent Leadership…in Life

January 8, 2020

What does leadership sound like? We usually think of leaders as strong, forceful personalities, loudly proclaiming their God-given vision and their amazing plan to change the world. They speak loudly and influence by declaration and proclamation. They grow in influence by taking courses in public speaking.

Speaking well is certainly an important part of leadership but the Bible has a lot to say about the power of silence!

In this series we’ll discover that silent leadership speaks loudly in many different areas. Servant leaders learn to leverage the sound of silence to increase their influence! Paul provides the general principle for all of life: And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12).

Paul encourages his readers to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” Ambition and quiet are not often found in the same sentence! Most leaders are ambitious for many things. They want success. They plan for action. They dream of making money, developing a large church or impacting the world. They love goals! But Paul adds this unusual goal, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” This verse gives three benefits that happen when servant leaders learn to lead with silence.

Silent leadership encourages focus. Paul says that the first benefit of a silent or quiet life is that we will learn to “mind your own business.” Leaders often step out of their own areas of authority to give their opinion on things about which they are not responsible. One of the dangers of speaking many words is that when leaders run out of good things to say, they say bad things or gossip! When they finish speaking truth, they begin sharing “half-truths” and then falsehoods.

Living a quiet life allows the servant leader to focus only on the areas to which God has called him or her. By their example servant leaders influence others to also mind their own business.

Silent leadership gets the job done. Paul challenges us to be quiet and “work with your own hands.”Some leaders spend so much time asking others to help they have no time to work! A quiet life focuses on being an example to others, showing rather than telling. The result is “you will not be dependent on anybody.” Servant leaders quietly get the job done. They lead by doing the work before calling others to join their efforts.

Silent leadership builds respect. Paul calls us to live quietly so that “your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.” Many leaders prepare well for public appearances, but Paul reminds us that servant leaders live a “daily life” of quiet faithfulness. This silent leadership will “win the respect of outsiders.” Leaders who make a lot of noise may be able to impress those on the ‘inside’, but they struggle to increase their influence beyond that circle. Servant leaders learn that silent leadership impacts even those on the ‘outside.’ They build influence by consistently doing what is right.

Paul’s instruction reminds servant leaders that living a quiet life does not reduce influence, it increases it. Servant leaders influence as they live quiet lives. They move up by shutting up!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • In what areas am I tempted to speak which are not my areas of responsibility? What is the result in my leadership?
  • Are there areas in which I am calling others to do things I am unwilling to do? What needs to change for me to lead by example?
  • Is there any difference between my “daily life” and my public appearances? If so, what needs to change and when will I do it?
  • Are there dangers of living a life that is too quiet? How do I guard against these dangers?
  • How do I balance the call to live a “quiet life” with the call to be an ambassador for Christ? What are the dangers of going too far in either being quiet or making noise?

In the next issue, we’ll examine the sound of silent leadership…in reflection.

Copyright, Global Disciples 2020.