Good leaders know how to speak (Great leaders know when not to)

Being a great leader isn’t just about knowing how to speak.

It’s also about knowing when not to.

Last week I sat down to write an article. I finished it and prepared to post as I do most weeks. As I took one final look over the article I began asking myself some questions. Why did I write this? Will anybody read this? And who is this really for? Is this really helping people?

I know I should have asked these questions earlier. But I’ll be honest, I didn’t. The only real answer I could come up with was ‘because I needed to say something’.

I chose not to post the article. I didn’t post any last week.

One of the key points I make in my ‘Lead the Room’ program is that “it’s not just about saying something, but having something to say”. I almost fell into that trap myself. Speaking because I felt the pressure to say something, not speaking because I was convinced I had something valuable to say at the time.

When I say something I want it to be for the purpose of building others not just building my own profile.

There’s an old proverb that says “speaking is silver, silence is golden”. I believe one of the marks of a great communicator and leader is not just being able to speak, but knowing how to be silent when it’s needed.

So here’s the challenge.

When leading your next meeting: Can you put aside your own input or solutions to an idea or challenge long enough to allow others in the room to contribute their best?

When delivering your next presentation: Can you be comfortable with the few seconds of silence after posing a question or making a point to allow the audience to process what you have just said without the need to fill the space with empty words?

When sitting in your next coaching session: Can you ask the right questions then stay silent long enough to allow a person to grow and find the solution themselves without needing to contribute your well meaning ‘advice’?

Someone once told me that we have two ears and one mouth so we should listen twice as much as we speak. I think it’s great advice.

As the wise Dr Ronan P. Keating once said in song “You say it best, when you saying nothing at all”.