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  • Writer's pictureJillian Sawers

Authentic Leadership requires Silence

Fake wannabe leaders might use physical silence as a tactic to impress, with an air of zen mystery, a James Bond reserve, or even as tool for manipulating their codependent subordinates.

But here we’re talking about authentic leaders. Authentic leadership can’t be recognized from the form, role, or personality it takes. But it can be felt from the spark it gives off.

For the broadest possible definition of leadership, I would look to someone hanging out at the top of the Maslow’s Pyramid. Such a person will radiate self-confidence, coming from true self-knowing, and they would affect others with their sincerity and enthusiasm as they talk about their projects, causes or creations. But it’s not those causes that create their enthusiasm. But rather everything, their relationships, their roles, their self-expressions, all seem to flow straight out of spirit.

Abraham Maslow's Hierachy of Needs
Abraham Maslow's Hierachy of Needs

When someone moves to the top of the triangle, they are going against the normal gravity and dissatisfactions of human endeavours. They enter a state where they are perpetually enthused, from the root ‘En-theos – in God’. At the apex, everything has literally flipped 180%. You’ve become an adult from a child. From self-focused to service focused. From someone who repeats and regurgitates the ideas, opinions, and concepts that already exist - to someone leading the way to something new.

People sometimes assume that we need to fulfill each level in order to move on up, but Maslow made it clear that it wasn’t necessary at all. The important thing is knowing that those things aren’t necessary. In fact, the true greatness of a leader is revealed when even the most basic levels are pulled out from under them, and they remain utterly stable.

Every leader speaks of their early struggles with rejection, failure, self-doubt, distractions and obstacles. Most of us clamber ungracefully up the triangle, only moving on when personal absurdity levels can no longer be ignored. If we can see the ridiculousness of our ‘wee’ selves chasing success and accolades, wisdom has been born. Which is why every leader needs his court jester or Borat to keep his psychosis in check.

But is spending half your life and fortune making a fool of yourself the only way to mature and have ‘self’ actualization.

As a business trainer I have often asked participants on leadership courses, who inspires them the most as a leader. Many of the men say their father. But when asked if they thought their own children would say the same one day about them, it was a definitive ‘No’. They had measured themselves against their fathers and had fallen short. Many would blame the media and its relentless invitation to superficiality. But the more encompassing and stark lack in all our modern day lives, is silence. Space and time to think. To ponder the results of our actions, in the quiet hours of a camel or train ride, with no screen to scroll.

With space and quiet, away from pressing demands, you begin to see what’s going on, you rewind the events of your life. You start asking the challenging questions. You also notice how you excuse and justify yourself or how you blame and shame yourself. You see your absurdity but an equally absurd part of yourself thinks it knows how to ‘fix’ you. Competing narratives make you feel insane and uncertain about everything, Including the existence of a central ‘self’ at all.

That’s why external silence is not enough.

Even in a hermit’s cell, trying to comprehend the self, through the mind, is like looking through a twirling kaleidoscope. That’s why all your attempts of self-realization through thought alone, will always fail.

It’s when you can no longer take your mind seriously and just drop into being, can you start to get a feel for the vast, extraordinary potential inside. It’s from this state of silent self-realization, that true service, creativity, insight, intuition and inspiration comes into being.

The Missing Piece from Simon Sinek Golden Circle.  Why, How, What and Who
The Golden Circle - Simon Sinek

This silence is the point at the centre and the engine for the golden triangle which Simon Sinek so eloquently explains.

Without it, you have the concepts of Why, What, and How, but the Who is missing.

Even making short visits to the upper levels or the inner circle and your consciousness begins to shift. Even spending time with someone who has small visits there has an effect. That is why silence is such a powerful aspect which everyone, especially those who define themselves as leaders need to put at the top of their urgent and important pile asap.

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