By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

‘Quit Leadership’– The two words together sound like an oxymoron…like two words that do not belong to one another. After all, the world of business is replete with stories of bold CEOs like Steve Jobs or Henry Ford who built successful businesses through their charisma and their sizably ruthless business streak. While examples like these are fairly common and make for some interesting anecdotes and outcomes under the right circumstances, there is another kind of leader who doesn’t hit the headlines just as often. This is the ‘quiet leader’.

What is a ‘Quiet Leader’?

Firstly, there is nothing meek or shy about quiet leaders. A quiet leader can be just as effective and powerful as their outspoken counterparts. The quiet leaders are a breed of leaders who exercise their power and their leadership through their actions, rather than their words. 

At the heart of the quiet leader lies confidence. They usually are people who adopt solution-driven approaches, and leverage collaboration, logical thought, and encouragement to solve problems Quiet leaders are open, approachable, compassionate, and understanding. They assume leadership positions because they have a reason to care, they are passionate, and committed and not because of a loud voice or a larger-than-life personality.

The Challenges facing Quiet Leaders 

Empowering quiet leaders is essential for organizations since this genre of leaders does not intentionally seek leadership. Their quiet nature can often also be misconstrued for arrogance and their quiet confidence for ego

Quiet leaders are also often introverted and evaluate decisions thoroughly rather than rush into a decision fast. While this is a great trait and is actually a hallmark of good leadership, it can also often be misunderstood as slow decision-making. 

All kinds make up an organization. While there are employees who thrive under quiet leadership, there are also employees who only respond to a hotshot leader who dominates the spotlight and talks a good game. The bias towards dynamic and alpha leaders has been ingrained as a part of the social conditioning. But just like how we had Steve Jobs, the charismatic guy who could make everyone believe in the miracles up his sleeve, we have Tim Cook, the quiet leader who leads Apple’s success story now. 

Simply put- while we might not be used to the idea of the quiet leader, but that doesn’t mean that these leaders don’t exist, or don’t lead well. If anything, quiet leaders can actually be better leaders. And it is the responsibility of the organization to identify, encourage and enable these leaders to improve organizational outcomes.

Coaching and the Quiet Leaders 

It may seem that the loudest voice in the room is the one that gets heard, the quiet person may have a lot more substantive to contribute. As such, organizations have to identify ways to help these leaders excel by helping them define their style and assist them in understanding how they can improve it to make it more effective.

But how can organizations identify these quiet leaders and help them? Clearly, these are not the people who will be vocal about their skills or aspirations. They probably will be unaware of their leadership qualities.

Here is a look at how organizations identify and capitalize on the power of their quiet leaders:

Identify the quiet leaders 

The first step to this puzzle is to identify those quiet leaders. While managers and organization leaders can keep their eye open for the employees who display the qualities of quiet leaders, taking a data-driven approach makes this an easier and effective process. 

Tests such as 16 Personality Factor self-evaluation tests or Behavioral Skill Analysis provide dependable, data-backed analysis of skills of employees. Those high-performing employees with quiet leadership traits can be easily identified using this data-backed strategy. 

With this approach, organizations also get insights into the areas that these quiet leaders need help in. Organizations can then effectively connect these employees to the right coach and set them on a path of successful leadership.

Connect them to the right coach 

Managing the complexities of today’s organizations, global, distributed, hybrid, or remote teams, and the like needs quiet leaders to develop their communication styles and build authentic connections. Connecting the right coach to quiet leaders especially becomes important when our definition of normal has changed. Ensuring the right coach-learner pair augments the quality of outcomes organically.

Organizations have to help the quiet leaders identify, understand, and reach their true potential. Having the right coach guiding them along this path is imperative for success. As such, organizations have to connect their quiet leaders, both potential and existing, to the right coaches who can help them learn to be better leaders by harnessing the qualities that they have and developing the qualities that they need.

The chemistry between the coach and the learner has to be right for it to deliver the right outcomes. Taking a data-driven approach and employing a technology-enabled, AI-driven coaching platform can make it easier to connect the right coach with the right learner and ensure better coaching outcomes.

Discover the leadership style

Coaching is a great tool for organizations to help their quiet leaders identify and develop their leadership styles. The leaders and those across the organization need to learn that ‘quiet’ does not translate to ‘ineffective’ and ‘loud’ does not always mean ‘effective’. 

A leadership style is essentially the path the leader uses to communicate, influence, or guide others. Connecting the quiet leaders to the right coaches helps them build on their self-awareness, identify their natural tendencies, and evaluate and understand how these can help or hinder their efforts. 

Coaching does not take a cookie-cutter approach to leadership development but rather, it takes a more individualistic approach to leadership development. By doing this, it helps the quiet ones learn and internalize executive skills like influence, inspiring confidence in all stakeholders, networking, stress management, strategic thinking, managing a diverse team, and visioning, etc., and helps them develop a leadership voice of their own. 

Quiet leaders need engagement too

It is a misnomer that employee engagement activities have to be directed at the employees only. Leaders too, are essentially employees.

Just identifying high-performing employees and prompting them to leadership roles does not essentially guarantee great outcomes for the organization. We need to remember that even at the highest levels, leaders need the same things that the everyday employee needs to stay engaged – acknowledgment and growth opportunities. 

Giving leaders, especially quiet leaders, an opportunity to enhance their career paths and providing them with the right tools to move ahead in their careers shows that the organization values them and their contribution. 

It is also an active way to show that the organization is invested in their career progress and their long-term growth and success. This can hugely contribute to the engagement levels of the quiet leaders as they are not the ones who are too vocal about their needs and yet, would like the same level of acknowledgment and growth as any other leader would.

Build leadership presence 

Many top-level executives are great at their jobs, are hard-working, and have team members who like them. And yet, they are not able to step in firmly into leadership roles. Not only does this impede this executive’s growth, but it also impacts their team members and impedes their opportunities for growth and learning. 

These top executives, the quiet leaders, continue to deliver value through their work but they continue to adhere to the ‘worker persona’ and find it hard to adapt and adopt the ‘leader persona’. This attribute is very commonly seen in women leaders who continue to work very hard, try and avoid mistakes as they feel mistakes can impact their careers more strongly than a man’s, or even avoid delegation or seeking help lest it is seen as a sign of weakness. 

Coaching can play a big role in bringing in the right mindset shift here. Coaching helps individuals identify and understand the root cause of issues and behaviors and increase self-awareness. It helps them understand and accept their personal challenges, and evaluate how to harness the power of the strengths that they have. This approach helps the learners enhance their leadership persona and consequently drives them to perform better as leaders. 

In Conclusion 

Quite leaders might not be the norm, but given the direction the world is moving towards, the rise of the global workplace, constant change, and the millennial and Gen Z as the dominant demographic in the workplace demand leaders who are more empathetic, resolute, and resilient. Coaching these quiet leaders to find their style of authentic leadership not only benefits them but also benefits the organization immensely. Since being quiet and the qualities that come with being quiet are behavioral, coaching proves to be a valuable cog in the wheel because it is only with coaching that it is possible to drive behavioral change.

Connect with us to see how you can help your top executives become effective leaders, irrespective of how quiet they are, by using an AI-powered coaching platform.