Society is obsessed with leadership. Leadership skills are highly emphasized as a requirement on almost every posting -- be it for college admission or a job position. Students are taught about leaders, how to be a leader and what makes a good leader. As a current college student I've had my share of witnessing elections for positions such as class president to electing a candidate for the "most likely to succeed in 10 years" award. While there were some well-deserving candidates, I came to notice a common personality trait among all of the nominees and winners. Selected leaders were loud and aggressive. It was disheartening to see equally or more talented candidates get rejected just because they were not the "loudest."
It's heartbreaking to hear the stories of worried parents who were told their quiet child could never run for class president simply because they were "too quiet."
We associate silence with weakness and hence ridicule the idea of someone quiet ever becoming a leader or succeeding in a leadership position.
For years the world has defined a leader by how much power they had over their people and the ability to sell oneself to others. We defined the powerful leader by their control over their followers and often watched this belief backfire when power and control diminished freedom. There were and continue to be leaders, who as candidates loudly prophesied their plans and promises to bring change for the better. Their campaigns were filled with a lot of noise and talk about all these promises. How often if not always do we see that when these candidates finally get elected as leader because of their talk, we come to realize that those promises were nothing but empty! We listened to all their loud talk during their campaigning. But now as the elected, when it is time for them to listen to us, are they listening? We then realize that we elected a good talker but not a good listener. Or in other words, we elected a leader for his sound quality and not his sound qualities.
The one thing that just about every person right now wants from a leader is for the leader to listen and empathize with the concerns of their followers. There's no doubt that when it comes to listening, the quiet are all ears on what you have to say.
How often have we criticized our leaders for making hasty decisions? The minds of quiet people have the opportunity to think before they act, resulting in more innovative rather than me-too, borrowed or stolen solutions.
In the past people were disqualified from being leaders because of their race or gender. In today's classrooms and offices people are disqualified from being a leader because of the few words they speak. The comments received by me, on my last Huffington Post blog made me realize that childhood rejection leaves permanent scars. Young people who are quiet are constantly rejected for leadership positions, even if they have the passion and expertise for the job. This steadily sinks all confidence and courage in them to continue with their aspiration to lead. What a loss to society!
While extroverts may make great leaders in their own way, there's no doubt that the calm, composed qualities of a quiet leader are especially needed in today's world.
Following in Arianna Huffington's and Third Metric's message in redefining success, I hope to redefine what it takes to be a successful leader.
Although I was a quiet student, I always aspired to be a leader in some way. However I felt discouraged, because the cookie-cutter image of a leader that I was taught about was loud and commanding, and I just didn't fit that image.
As a quiet student who was laughed at and ridiculed for wanting to compete and become a leader, I can proudly say that I ended up scoring many leadership positions. So if you are young person feeling discouraged or being discouraged from running for a leadership role because of your quietness, don't hold yourself back from your aspiration. Remember that actions speak louder than words, and right now the world could use less talk and more action.
As we near the end of the school year my organization Softest Voices will be starting a campaign called, "What I Wish People Knew About Me." Students and people of all ages are encouraged to write on or make a video about what they wish more people knew about them. The aim of this campaign is to make the voices that get drowned out in all the noise, heard.
For more information on how you can join the campaign visit SoftestVoices.com