Is leading a quiet activity or a loud activity?

SsshhhThat is a strange question. Isn’t it?

Here is what I mean. Is real leadership something that you can undertake without ever raising your voice?

My son’s kindergarten teacher was Mrs. McGrath. She was a very soft-spoken woman. In fact, whenever she needed to get the children’s attention she would whisper. No matter what was going on in the classroom and no matter how rowdy the children were, she would stop what she was doing and speak in a voice that was nearly a whisper. And one by one the children would quiet down and come over to where she was standing or sitting and would get as close to her as they could. Why? Because they wanted to know what great secret she was about to share with them.

Now contrast that with the drill sergeant that assisted my dad through basic training during the Korean War. There was probably not a lot of whispering going on there. In fact that drill sergeant probably got up close and personal and spoke in such a way as there was no way my dad misunderstood what he was saying.

Two very distinctive communication styles. Both individuals were demonstrating great leadership. But it would be hard to find two more opposite styles.

So, is leadership a quiet or loud activity?

7 Replies to “Is leading a quiet activity or a loud activity?”

  1. Good thought-provoking article! It reminds of something I heard in a church when the song leader asked, “Could you still worship without a voice?” What if we change this up just a little and ask, “Could you still lead without a voice?”
    As I read your writings this morning, the things that popped into my head related to the wide contrast between the two groups being led. There was a wide gap between the maturity levels, so the leadership needed to be age appropriate. One group was under the leader because of a decision their parents made and the other due to a personal commitment that was made to support a cause. Each leader was trying to connect emotional with the group and each approach touches the emotions in different ways. I’m sure each of the leaders were in some way reaching the five senses; including sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. One was going about it in a soft approach that has a tendency to penetrate slowly while on the loud side of things it has a tendency to drive home a lesson quickly. For each of these groups the leader was preparing their followers for the future ahead and how they would need to respond to it. The young ones would need to be patient with the process of learning as they developed in a variety of areas within the human system. While on the other hand, the men and women in the military needed to prepare for war and this involved quick responses that would hinge on life and death consequences.
    I’m sure there are other things to share, but I thought I better write these down before they exit my train…you know, the train of thought.

  2. Good reminder that its takes different volume levels to achieve different results. My volume is usually set to ‘high’. Not always good. I usually used a very high volume when commanding my young child who is running away from me toward a busy street intersection. But I usually missed the opportunity to talk in whispers about the situation that just occurred. This mean that it took them having children of their own to realize what I did then.

  3. One more thought…God did speak in a still small voice (KJV) (1 Kings 19:9-18, specifically verse 12, translated “low whisper” in ESV).

  4. I think this is a great thought provoking post, and I love what Brian said about worshiping with out a voice, and I agree on not only the maturity levels, but what about the required outcomes? First I point out the teacher had a school year to get her point across, and the drill instructor was trying to save someones life. I am reminded of something I heard about leadership once, and that was Do as I do, for I will always lead from the front.

  5. Contemplating the value of leadership in a “silent” manner, I think of the ways in which the military communicates in the heat of battle. In all military exercises, many communications are able to be conveyed by hand signals, and jestures. These jestures are commands that can save your life, or mean the difference between mission accomplished or mission aborted.
    In the corporate world, how many “jestures” does the real leader give, without having to use “colorful” or loud language to direct his subordinates. I believe that in many situations, just a “look” from a real leader is all we need to accomplish the mission. Makes me think of how many Leaders vs “bosses” I have had in my career, that could motivate with just a jesture.

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