Before I knew what leaders do, I saw them as giving other people answers.
People needed direction and guidance, and leaders told them what to do. Leaders were smarter and had more answers than everyone else, so other people listened to them to make sure they did not make any mistakes.
Of course, I decided that I wanted to be a leader.
I set out to learn about leaders and leadership. I studied and read, and tried to find the answers I needed to become a leader. I learned a lot and, over time, the way I understood leadership began to change.
I worked with leaders, and had opportunities to practice leading myself. I was afraid that someone would ask me a question for which I did not have the answer, and they would discover that I was not a real leader. I was very good at projecting the aura of effective leadership.
With some of the leaders I met, the ones who most inspired me, I studied what made them different. They were not the best public speakers, and they had not been educated at the most famous schools. They were not the best looking or the most dynamic.
Eventually I realized that what set them apart and what motivated me was the way they listened.
Leadership, unlike what I assumed, is a balance of listening and talking, contemplation and action, sound and silence. The leaders who make a lasting difference for me have a deeper balance of sound and silence.
Silence is not empty space. Silence gives us time to breathe, time to listen, time to reflect. We let go of the answers we have accumulated and open ourselves to the deep truths all around us. Our true selves connect with the trues selves of other people, and we become the leaders we can be.
What is your balance of sound and silence?
[Image by visualpanic]