This week i am #WorkingOutLoud to share extracts from an upcoming book on Quiet Leadership. This piece sits in the section on ‘Humility’, and asks why we take ‘the smallest of actions’.
Why bother to take small actions? If we cast a shadow, should we not simply build a stronger light?
Quiet Leadership may feel a bit like chipping away at a glacier with a toothpick: how can i possibly hope to influence or rebuild a culture, when i myself have so much work to do on myself?
How can one person possibly effect change, when we have already said that within an ecosystem approach, nobody alone can tend to the system as a whole?
I want to say that the answer to this is that whilst we cannot change one whole system, we can change one thing.
We can start with the smallest of… words. Words count. Words are powerful. Consider your use of words: how you use language, where you use words of condemnation or gratitude, vulnerability or fear. A single word can make a difference.
For example: i have been trying to avoid using the word ‘guys’ when i talk to my team. I always used to use this term, to encapsulate everyone, but since reading Caroline Criado Perez’s work on ’Invisible Women’, i have realised that my language took something away. My language degraded the ecosystem. Changing it may only have a tiny effect, but it matters. It’s not necessarily that my language alone polluted the system, but my language reinforced and perpetuated a dominant narrative that was invalid or outdated. So through my action (using the word) and inaction (failing to change myself or challenge others), i degraded the system. I cast a shadow.
Words are good, but what about the smallest of actions: from picking up litter, to washing a coffee cup, we make a difference. Perhaps the action you take is to reach out: to offer support, in kindness, to offer resource or challenge. Perhaps the action is to build, or deconstruct. Perhaps it is to explore or debate, in search of new ideas or stories.
Even if you do not use small words or actions, you can still change something vital by taking time to think differently in the smallest of ways: by thinking differently, you can change yourself. Our fragments of thought create the ‘meaning’ and worldview that we operate within: sometimes it is thought alone that fractures a framework, and provides us with the space to truly grow.
With these thoughts, words, and smallest of actions, we can change many things.
- You can change one persons day: through the smallest of things.
- You can change one inequality, through a small action.
- You can change one unfair outcome, through your powerful small words or actions.
- You can challenge a culture of fear, through a powerful word or action.
- You can change the world, if you smallest of words capture the imagination, inspire or promote others, knock down a barrier or constraint, are shared with an authentic power.
And you never know: if you are willing to make a journey into Quiet Leadership, to consider the very smallest of your thoughts, your words, and your actions, you may even change the hardest thing of all.
You may change yourself.