The Loudest Silence
As leaders, there is always noise. People who want your input, your opinion, your decision, your ideas, your thoughts. It comes from so many different directions and what can seem like an unrelenting pace – text messaging and email only exacerbates this!
And then there is world noise. What I mean by that is everywhere we go, music, talking, phones dinging and pinging. It seems that it is hard, really really hard, to find times of quiet.
Have you ever thought about the impact of that noise on you as a leader? I don’t think we are meant to be stimulated all the time and yet we find ourselves in that very place. I also have come to think that it makes it hard to lead. Leadership is not just about our will, our initiative, our talent, or our education. Leadership is also a soul exercise. To effectively lead, regardless of what setting we lead in, we have to give our soul space to breathe, to reflect, and to settle.
Out of those times, we gain the insights that we need and may even crave, as leaders. It is almost counter to what we think leaders do. We engage, we confront, we tackle – we take the next hill!!
However, it comes at a cost. People don’t burn out because they stop loving what they do. They burn out because they lose the proper external/internal balance.
I remember an interview with James Taylor, the very talented singer/song writer, where he was asked about song writing. I don’t remember the question directly but I have never forgotten his answer. “We have to be quiet enough, long enough, to let those things come through.”
I firmly believe the same is true for leadership. To stay fresh, to stay driven, to stay on point with ALL that pulls at our time, mind, and energy we have to intentionally guard opportunities for quiet moments. To refocus, refresh, and re-center.
I lead a team of 9 people. There are always questions, directions, corrections on course that happen every week. The older I get the more I am learning the value of silence. Even simply driving in my car with no radio or music, I can have moments of insight and inspiration. Moments where decisions I have been struggling with came into focus. Those moments are amazing when they happen!
If you find yourself in places of constant noise, may I suggest some simple steps to put into practice:
- Make yourself aware of all the sources of noise. This may seem trivial at first but you may find it enlightening when you realize just how many sources there are. When we know the source, we can then decide if it is necessary or even removable.
- Be intentional to carve our spaces for silence. While that might seem a little childish to schedule “quiet time” it may be the only time you will find it. Remember, as a leader, no one will look out for you the way you will. A few minutes before people start coming into your office. Silencing your phone before work officially begins, walking without your earphones instead of with them. All of those are easy but take intentional thought and action to make happen
- When possible, don’t make big decisions in the moment. Allow those decisions to “marinate” so to speak, coming back to them during your times of intentional quiet. There will be details, pros, cons, etc. of the decisions that you may not be capable of discerning in the middle of all the noise.
- Seek others to join you. This could be a few moments of quiet before a meeting begins. It doesn’t have to be structured or formal. Just simply an invitation where you could say something like “it’s a busy day with a lot of distractions around us, let’s take a few moments and enjoy the quiet before we dig in”. In an office or setting of various spiritual interests, this should be hardly off putting to anyone.
- Consider enlisting a coach in times of important decisions and seasons. There are a lot of values to a hiring a coach but one of those can be your coach will affirm and walk with you as you navigate important decisions. A coach can give you some reflective space while also moving you from quiet space into action.
As you lead, find those times of quiet. Not only might your leadership benefit, but your soul might just benefit as well.