leadership essentials, leadership lessons

Silent Leadership


I was 16. I was failing in front of what seemed to me (at least at the time) a large congregation at church. I was given the responsibility, along with another young man, Jeremiah (also 16 or 17), to perform an ordinance. All I essentially had to do was recite a few lines perfectly.

First attempt…I failed.

Second attempt…I failed.

Third attempt…I failed.

You know how you feel when you are the center of unwanted attention? Time seems to slow and pressure mounts. Sweat starts to bead on your brow. You become increasingly self-conscious and time slows more.

I just wanted to get out of there. I wanted to give up and let someone else take over. I wanted relief from the embarrassment and freedom from the situation. I didn’t know how I could get out and that is all I wanted–to get out!


As I started my fourth attempt, unbeknownst to anyone else, Jeremiah silently placed his hand on my shoulder. In this silent expression, I felt confident, I felt relief. I don’t know if the confidence and relief I felt in that moment was his or mine but it didn’t matter, I felt that I could do it. And, at long last I was successful. We were successful!

Lessons Learned

Looking back, this entire experience likely lasted no more than 2-3 minutes but I learned a lesson that will forever show me the power of leadership. I’ll highlight just two lessons I’ve learned from this act of silent leadership:

Leadership is Simple

Jeremiah’s act was simple. I don’t even know if I thanked him. I would like to think I did but as a 16-year-old kid, it is entirely possible I was too absorbed in my own embarrassment to say, “thank you.”

Acts of leadership should be simple. In your leadership, you don’t have to (and, in my mind, shouldn’t be) grandiose. Simplify your acts and make them count. Jeremiah’s act allowed me to proceed with confidence. It counted to me! His act allowed the entire congregation to proceed with the meeting. It certainly counted to them! A simple act allowed a group of believers to move forward with their worship service!

Leadership Serves One

The placing of his hand on my shoulder, was an act of selfless service. Jeremiah served me.

Leading, whether teams or families or groups of believers, is, ultimately, done through serving each one person. Lisa’s service to me was singular and profoundly impacted my life and the lives of my family. Jeremiah’s act served me directly and, indirectly, the rest of the congregation that day.

As you lead your team or family, you do so through one-on-one acts of service. For example, coaching sessions with your team (or talking with your family) members should be opportunities for you to serve by helping each one come up with solutions to their challenges.

Silent Leadership

While Jeremiah’s act was a simple act of service and it drew no fanfare and no recognition from anyone, it had a major impact on me. Through his silent act, he lifted me out of my moment of desperation. He helped me believe that I could do something I had repeatedly failed.

Leadership styles certainly vary. Some leaders are boisterous, some are extroverts, others are introverts. Silent leadership moments are those that can have the biggest impact on the lives of those you lead, those you serve!

According to David Rock (author or Quiet Leadership), “Quiet leaders are masters at bringing out the best performance in others. They improve the thinking of people around them—literally improving the way their brains process information—without telling anyone what to do. Given how many people in today’s companies are being paid to think and analyze, improving our thinking is one of the fastest ways to improve performance.”

As a quiet leader, you can immediately impact the people you serve and lead through silent acts of confidence!

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