Quiet Leadership

“People don’t need to be managed, they need to be unleashed.” – Richard Florida (2002)

So begins Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work by David Rock (2006, HarperCollins). I don’t know how this book ended up on my Amazon.com Wish List, but I’m glad it did. (I actually found it in our local library.)

Rock, a leadership coach and speaker, believes, “Our leadership practices are not keeping up with the realities of organizational life.” A century ago, workers were paid to do what they were told. Today, however, we live and work in a knowledge economy, and employees need to learn not merely how to perform, but how to thinkQuiet Leadership seeks to help leaders improve people’s thinking, thereby improving performance. And the way to do this is to become a “quiet leader,” allowing the people under your leadership to think for themselves instead of telling them what or how to think.

The six steps of quiet leadership are:

  1. Learn to Think About Thinking. Focus on solutions instead of the problem, stretching people as they journey to new behaviors, activities, or ways of thinking.
  2. Listen for Potential. Stay out of the way and allow people to solve their own dilemmas.
  3. Speak with Intent. Learn to be Succinct, Specific, and Generous with your words as a leader.
  4. Dance Toward Insight. Learn conversational skills such as permission, questioning and clarifying to stay on the path from problem to solution.
  5. CREATE New Thinking: Accurately diagnose current reality, explore alternatives, and tap workers’ energy to find solutions.
  6. Follow Up: Make sure new thinking becomes reality, “closing the gap between an idea and a habit.”

Overall, I found this book very helpful. I like Rock’s model, although it seemed a bit convoluted when first presented and finally came together in the summary at the very end of the book. As with any new way of thinking or behaving, full understanding and implementation of the six steps will require a lot of practice. However, I believe the transformative potential — internally and externally, for both the leader and a follower or employee — makes it well worth the effort.

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