LEAD

Leaders: When It's Better to Be Silent

Silence might be your best communication strategy. Maintain your relationships, focus, and credibility by shutting up. Here are three reasons why.
Advertisement

As a leader, sometimes your smartest words are unspoken.

Though your team typically listens for your words of wisdom and direction, here are three reasons to keep silent:

1. Maintain relationships.

Even though talk is cheap, you can't buy it back. Holding your tongue allows you to ensure the words you eventually speak are constructive and not emotionally charged. Keeping silent until you can select the right words (and the right tone) reduces regret on your part and resistance by the other party. Your goal as a leader is to build people up, not break them down. Proverbs 11:17 says, "Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you." So the choice is yours. You can speak your piece or hold your peace.

2. Maintain focus.

In today's open-forum, unfiltered world, just because we can say something doesn't mean we should. Your silence might make a big statement--a statement of staying focused on what really matters. If your team's discussion is moving along toward its objective, don't derail it. Resist "majoring on the minors" by commenting on details or rumors that add no value. This goes for all communication forums, from in-person meetings to social media.

3. Maintain credibility.

You lead in a fishbowl. Your team is always watching you, whether you like it or not. Unless you know all the facts, speaking up too quickly can put your credibility at risk. Also, words directed at one person on a team setting are essentially directed to your entire team, so a negative comment or sarcastic reply is felt by your entire team. This hurts them and hurts your leadership credibility.

A leader's ears are more powerful than his or her mouth. Set the right example for your team by using your words and your silence wisely. Know when to speak up or shut up.

Find more practical words to lead by. Read free book chapters from the author's book Leadership Matters.

Last updated: Jul 30, 2014

LEE COLAN | Columnist

Lee Colan is founder of the L Group, a consulting firm that equips and inspires leaders at every level. He is a leadership adviser, presenter of practical ideas, and a Thinkers 50 nominee for Top Management Thinker.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: