Over the past 10 years, I have been honored to explore and debate the essence of power with Dr. Tony Baron. Specifically, how power impacts leadership, how leadership impacts culture, and, ultimately, how culture impacts performance.
With a double doctorate in psychology and theology and decades of executive coaching experience with Fortune 100 companies, you can imagine the depth and breadth that Tony adds to the subject. We are currently co-authoring a book that combines Tony’s scholarship and my straight talk about the challenges faced by today’s leaders. Meanwhile, I will be sharing guest posts by Tony over the next several months to give you a taste of what it’s like to have an amazing colleague and friend like Tony Baron. – Sheri Nasim
The business world is filled with corporate-speak in order to entice the buyer to pay more or the employee to do more in the name of profitability. Today’s business leaders are uncomfortable when their employees are sitting behind a desk without a phone attached to their ear or a person on the other side of the desk. Silence, in business language, often implies that nothing advantageous is being accomplished.
Scan the radio dial or the television stations and you will hear an abundance of words used in frivolous banter, harmful gossip, or inaccurate spin-doctoring of opinion. In his powerful book, The Way of Heart, Henri Nouwen skillfully suggests:
“Over the last few decades we have been inundated by a torrent of words. Wherever we go we are surrounded by words: words softly whispered, loudly proclaimed, or angrily screamed; words spoken, recited, or sung; words on records, in books, on walls, or in the sky; words in many sounds, many colors, or many forms; words to be heard, read, seen, or glanced at; words which flicker off and on, move slowly, dance, jump, or wiggle. Words, words, words! They form the floor, the walls, and the ceiling of our existence” (p. 45).
Later, Nouwen, in that same chapter entitled, “Our Wordy World,” describes his bizarre impression while driving in Los Angeles as entering a “huge dictionary.” He writes:
“Where I looked there were words trying to take my eyes from the road. They said, ‘Use me, take me, buy me, drink me, smell me, touch me, kiss me, sleep with me.’ In such a world who can maintain respect for words?” (pp. 45-46)
Indeed, because of their abundance, words have become a commodity. Their dilution of power requires today’s leaders to use rhetoric to entice or incite others to action. Sizzle replaces substance. Code words replace honest conversations. Opinions replace truth. The abundance of words numbs the soul, confuses the mind, and paralyzes the feet from walking the path of truth.
Here are some suggestions for practicing the virtue of silence:
- Seek to listen first. Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your heart.
- Suppress the urge to have the last word on the subject.
- Set aside a day (make arrangements with your administrative assistant and staff so they don’t think you are crazy) where you listen without speaking.
Life is best lived in intimacy. The words we speak often more accurately reflect past debris and present distractions than enhancing genuine intimacy. Although I have been deeply formed by significant relationships over the years, I am now certain that those relationships would have been more profound if I had spent more time listening than talking. The first casualty of the abundance of words is truth.
Listening is in short supply in the corporate world today. Try silence as a tool to be a better leader. You will actually learn more about your team, your corporate needs, and yourself.
[Dr. Tony Baron is Scholar-in-Residence for Center for Executive Excellence, and Associate Professor of Christian Leadership at Azusa Pacific University.]
Question: How much of your time to you spend talking versus listening? What might you learn if you practiced the virtue of silence? Please leave your comment below.
Dr. Tony Baron is Distinguished Scholar-In-Residence at Center for Executive Excellence and an internationally recognized speaker, writer, corporate consultant, professor and the San Diego Director of Azusa Pacific University Graduate School of Theology.
Dr. Baron is the author of six books, including The Art of Servant Leadershipand a workbook manual co-written with noted author and business leader Ken Blanchard. Throughout his career, he has worked with hundreds of companies including Ford Motor Company, Coca Cola Company, Warner Brothers Studios, and Boeing, among many others.
Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, visit us today at www.executiveexcellence.com or subscribe to receive CEE News!