Catherine is president and partner at Ketner Group Communications, a retail tech PR agency.
Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a few of my columns about different leadership styles. To be honest, I am obsessed with the whole idea of leadership!
If you look at the viewing history of any of the half-dozen video streaming services I subscribe to, you’ll find that I lean toward documentaries about historical leaders and the impacts they made during their time in the “leadership hot seat.” I love learning how these people used their unique personality traits to make bold changes in their lives and the world around them.
And if I’m being even more honest, leadership is not something that I ever dreamed about or even thought I would be good at when growing up. I was always the shy one, the less vocal one in the friend group, but the one people would talk to because I was a good listener.
It wasn’t until I was in college and was voted to be the president of my Public Relations Student Society of American (PRSSA) chapter at Texas Tech University that I started to apply my own leadership style to my new position.
I quickly learned I had what it took to be successful as a leader, but I would never be the loud and outgoing type. I was the quiet leader.
Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace my approach to leadership and have learned a few things along the way:
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Drop Knowledge And Charisma When Needed
Charismatic leaders who are “always on” are fun to watch and learn from, of course. But just as impressive are leaders who know just what to say at just the right time.
For example, I have an amazing uncle—he is on the quiet side, is easy to talk to and is extremely smart. He is not the type to “hold court” at the dinner table. He sits back and listens with purpose, but when the time is right and (if) he has something to say, it is always the funniest or most insightful thing you’ve ever heard.
I’ve modeled my leadership in the PR world after people like my uncle, and I would certainly follow him into any “battle.” Showcasing your charisma is great, but I recommend only using charisma as needed. People will still follow. In my humble opinion, less is always more!
Keep Calm And Listen
As author and educator Stephen R. Covey says in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” This quote touches my soul! How often are you in a conversation with someone and you just know they are not listening to you, but rather, thinking of what they are going to say next?
I believe that a good leader, no matter if they are the quiet type or not, should be a good listener and maintain a sense of calm. This can be hard in the fast-paced PR agency world, but the truth is that when people truly listen, it makes us feel good and validates our feelings and thoughts.
I learned to hone this skill as the quiet one growing up, and I apply it to my leadership position today. My goal is to try and approach each problem or challenge with a level head and positivity, and to be the listener that my team needs me to be.
Remember It’s Always About The Team
It’s no secret to those who know me: I absolutely love the British royal family and I absolutely adore the late Queen Elizabeth II and her leadership style. She once said the following: “I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal. They are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm, and their inspiration to work together.” In other words, amazing things can happen when a leader weaves together the unique skills of each person.
For me, as a quiet leader, my team is everything. This is especially true because I’m a team member of an agency. I love hearing new ideas from my colleagues and working to apply them to our business. I also know my shortcomings, and I’m not afraid to ask for help.
Leaders don’t have all the answers, nor should they. At the end of the day, my goal as a leader is to help make my team shine.
Owning My Quiet Leadership Style
I often wish that I was like one of my favorite football coaches, that I had a big booming voice that can command a room with a single word. But that’s just not me, and that’s OK!
There is space in this world for all kinds of leadership styles, and each brings a unique flavor to the table. Even though it’s not perfect, I’ve learned to be proud of my quiet leadership style and to continue finding ways to improve it. In the meantime, I’ll continue to watch, listen and learn.
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Author: Catherine Seeds, Forbes Councils Member