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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

March - 2011 - issue > People Manager

In praise of the Quiet Leaders!

C Mahalingam (Mali)
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
C Mahalingam (Mali)
There is no dearth of celebrating the leaders in organizations: Rock stars, Top talent, Rain makers, Role Models and more. Celebrity leaders become poster boys and start attracting and receiving spot light both within the organization and outside. But if we look closely at the organizations and their successes, there is much more to it than meets the eye! There are many quiet leaders that lay the foundation for and contribute to the success of the organization. They are not visible, nor do they make the right noise. They just perform and do so quietly!

Challenges with heroic view of leaders:
According to Prof Joseph Badaracco of Harvard Business School, our preoccupation with celebrating the “heros” has some serious drawbacks! Topping the list is that it distorts our understanding of leadership by making us think of it as a pyramid. This leads to a gross misunderstanding that at the top are stars and heroes and at the bottom are shirkers and coasters! The reality is that the world of not divided into inspiring superman and feckless Clark Kents! Secondly and even more importantly, the heroic view of leadership ignores the everyday right-versus-right challenges. The common portrayal of leaders confronting great challenges and doing the right things at the right time while choosing to ignore the wrong. But everyday work life is full of right-versus-right decisions! Quiet leaders handle this with great sense of responsibility and concern every day at work. The third problem with such a perspective is that it offers no help to people caught in the uncertainties of the contemporary life in organizations!

Like the foam on the waves of a deep ocean!
At this point in time, let me introduce the story of Albert Schweitzer. In late 20s, Schweitzer gave up a roaring career as a musician or theologian. Instead, he became a doctor and spent rest of his life treating the poor in central Africa. In 1952, when he won the Nobel Prize for his contributions, he used the funds from the Prize for building a facility for treating leprosy. Schweitzer changed many lives and inspired countless others to do so. In his autobiography titled, “Out of My Life and Thought”, he wrote the following: “Of all the will toward the ideal in mankind only a small part can manifest itself in public action. All the rest of this force must be content with small and obscure deeds. The sum of these, however, is thousand times stronger than the acts of those who receive wider public recognition. The latter, compared to the former, are like the foams on the waves of a deep ocean!”

Welcome to the world of Quiet Leaders:
Instead of taking forceful and direct action, the quiet leaders often work being the screens. They know for sure that leadership is largely a matter of doing the right thing. Quite leaders understand that some situations do call for taking forceful and direct actions, but they often see this as an exception than a rule. Heroism, in their view, is the last resort than a standard model to embrace and practice. Research by Harvard has indicated that the quite leaders often follow 5 basic guidelines as under:

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