The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul book cover

Leading from stillness and silence

Silence can be strange, uncharted territory for both leaders and coaches. When our egos are agitated and threatened we start talking more and more, trying to fill the air with a tone of superiority and words of significance.

We fear the very silence that would connect us to the people we are communicating with.

I am currently working with a talented group of coaches who are meeting for a series of two-day intensives on how to strengthen our skills and impact. Much of our inquiry and interactive sharing of best practices involves coaching leaders in companies and organizations… which is what my The Leader and The Coach co-author Will Keiper and I have made this blog all about.

Our group also reads a book between sessions. I love that we do this because my experience tells me that a book well-chosen, and well-read, deeply and slowly with pages marked, sentences underlined, and notes taken, can change the whole course of one’s life. Like Franz Kafka said, a book can be “…the axe for the frozen sea inside us.”

Our current book is The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul. I highly recommend that you get this book and read it right away. Here’s a piece from it that is in harmony with what Will and I have been writing about in these blog posts:

“Cass Sunstein is a professor at Harvard Law School who also served as administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under Barack Obama. Assuming this role, Sunstein learned a valuable lesson in group leadership: if he began a meeting by stating his own views, he discovered, the ensuing discussion was far less expansive and open than if he started out by saying, “What do you all think? This is a tough one.”

“As soon as a leader makes his preferences known,” says Sunstein, “many who work for them will choose to engage in ‘self-silencing’ rather than rock the boat with a dissenting view.” And, he notes, “…some people are more likely to silence themselves than others, and these may include women and members of minority groups, as well as individuals with less status, less experience, or less education.”

“Yet it’s just this range of voices that must be heard if the group-mind is to exert its unique power.” One solution, says Sunstein, is for leaders to silence themselves; the manager or administrator who adopts an “inquisitive and self-silencing” stance, he maintains, has the best chance of hearing more than their own views reflected back to them.

In leadership, less can often be more, and better.

The Leader & The Coach by Steve Chandler & Will Keiper
Share This
Scroll to Top