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Blog: Quote
  • Writer's pictureTara Rethore

For Leaders: Silence Speaks Volumes

What goes on in the community and the nation impacts people - and thus also, your business context. This is reason alone to pay attention and embrace the opportunity to lead. To define oneself as a leader.

Leaders must be ready to have difficult conversations with staff - including about events that evoke strong emotions or opinions, or violate shared values. Transparency, honesty, and direct communication strengthen relationships and demonstrate commitment to both people and values.

Leaders must be equally ready to listen. The cadence of talking and listening prompts understanding about both your people and the operating environment. This fosters more effective decisions and actions to achieve your objectives – the heart of strategy.

Sometimes – and particularly in challenging circumstances – leaders remain silent. At times, their silence is powerful.

Silence speaks.

Business leaders often wrestle with whether they should speak out about issues or events outside their business. To speak or not reflects organizational and personal values. Speaking out allows you to control the narrative. Silence gives others license to speak for you – as I discussed in this article: Silence. It Isn’t Always Golden.

One weekend in the fall of 2022, deadly shootings occurred at two US universities: the University of Idaho and the University of Virginia (UVA). Unrelated to each other, both events deeply affected their extended communities and the nation. At the time of the shootings, two of my children were attending UVA. Thus, I was particularly attuned to what happened in Charlottesville, VA.

On Monday evening (just hours after lockdown was lifted), thousands of students and community members gathered on UVA’s South Lawn. In complete silence, they stood together. Silently, they placed candles on the steps of Old Cabell Hall where families and teammates of Devin Chandler, Lavell Davis, D’Sean Perry, and two others sat, also in silence. Video clips shared on social media captured the deafening silence. (Watch here and here.)

In the aftermath of crisis, student leaders of the UVA Student Council chose silence.

And indeed, silence spoke. Silence conveyed tremendous respect, collective pain, and shared grief. It united the community and paid tribute not only to the victims and their families, but also to those who remain. Silence was golden.

What happens in communities affects people and thus, the business context. Rather than simply allowing others to speak for them, leaders deliberately choose how they respond and what messages to send. They don’t need all the answers. They do need to acknowledge the feeling - pain, sorrow, anger, fear, disgust, whatever - and the varied ways in which the event may affect their staff. From there, they craft a productive path forward.

How will you show up as a leader?

Whether you speak out or listen, act or remain still, choose wisely. When silence speaks, it speaks volumes.

~ My deepest condolences to the families and communities of the University of Idaho, UVA, and all others who have experienced gun violence.


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