#WorkingOutLoud on Quiet Leadership

I’ve spent today easing myself into some work around ‘Quiet Leadership’: it’s an attempt to build a vocabulary around the type of leadership that operates beyond heroes, the behaviours that gently weave the culture of an Organisation, and lay the foundations for broader engagement and good health. This work is not about formal programmes, or purpose led conversations, but rather about the gentle ways in which we lead, through authentic action, that help one other person to find their way. The smallest things we do that impact the communities, tribes, and teams, that surround us.

It’s not about the hero: it’s about the whole ecosystem that surrounds them.

Quiet Leadership’ is a model of Social Leadership that looks on the Organisation as an ecosystem, a forest, and considers how each of our actions either enhance, or degrade, that system.

The forest represents a cycle of renewal, growth, loss, and decay, but a system in balance, if we tend to it well.

A Forest of Social Leaders

Not an idealised view where growth takes place without cost, where action is taken without loss, but rather a view of tensions and feedback, where every action has impact, and our role is less about mitigating that impact, so much as understanding how the varied forces flow. 

I’m centring my work around four aspects of this: humility, kindness, fairness, and grace.

Humility is a judgement upon our actions: but how are we judged, how can we lead with humility, and how do we learn to be more humble (if indeed we should strive to achieve this at all)? This work draws upon my previous guided essay exploring ‘the humble leader’, as well as broader work around social justice, and individual impact.

Kindness is something we all appreciate and understand, but in the context of leadership, what role does it have, and assuming it has one, how is it held and accounted for? What is the cost of kindness, and is it evenly distributed, or held back for those people we like the most? Can we be kind in conflict, and does kindness work in purpose lead, or target led, Organisations? Is kindness a strength, a luxury, or a cost?

Fairness, in a similar vein, is something easy to talk about, but harder to achieve, because to be fair we must be fair in two spaces: to each other, and to the Organisation itself. We are, after all, contracted to both: one with a legal contract, and one with a social one. The ‘Framework for Fairness’ consider this in terms of what we invest, what we aspire to to, the cost we are willing to pay, and the impact of our actions.

Finally, an idea that is new in my own work, but which can best be described as the choreography of leadership, and the sense of flow in our action: how are we experienced as a leader, and can we attain a certain grace in execution?

This work is experimental, and hence my description of gently finding my way with it: i aim to publish and share the evolving work here through the rest of this year, and will take some groups through a prototype experience as well, to consider how this leads into action.

We each clearly recognise that some of these forces, notably kindness and fairness, are central to our perception of an individual or system, but perhaps we do not always have space to consider how our individual action leads to these effects at a cultural level. That is really what i want to create with this work: to explore how, through Quiet Leadership, through gentle action, we can improve our ecosystem, we can help the forest to thrive.

About julianstodd

Author and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the Social Age. I’ve written ten books, and over 2,000 articles, and still learning...
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