Use Silence as a Leadership Strategy

Posted by:

Silence, yes, silence, is a powerful leadership tool. There are many adages about silence such as “he who speaks first loses,” or “silence is golden” which comes from a longer phrase “speech is silver, silence is golden,” placing a much greater value on silence, not just the spoken word.

Recent research by New York University’s Stern School of Business Department of Management and Organizational Behavior shows that the workforce is remaining silent. This type of silence is not a good thing, in fact it is something to avoid or overcome at all cost. Silence on the part of the workforce means you have no upward communication about organizational problems or issues concerning the workforce.

On the other hand, silence on the part of the leader and management offers an opportunity for the workforce to express themselves more openly, and in fact encourages such action as long as the communication is received non-judgmentally. Silence is all about social, cultural, internal and relational interaction. Silence is often the missing link when it comes to verbal and non-verbal communications.

Silence is a powerful use of personal energy. The list of five below will help you switch off distractions, increase your leadership skills and utilize silence as a key leadership strategy.

Use Silence to Gain Clarity

“Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom,” according to Francis Bacon, English philosopher and statesman. If you have an endless loop of chatter congesting your thinking, in addition to external distractions and interruptions, it is very difficult to remain focused on the task at hand or achieve clarity to innovate or resolve issues. Once your surroundings and mind become silent, you will turn your thoughts inward and achieve the clarity you seek. Set aside at least five minutes per day to spend in absolute silence. The clarity will come and the innovation will flow.

Use Silence to Stay In-control

“Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute,” stated Josh Billings, pen name for humorist Henry Wheeler. When you are in a difficult situation, a negotiation or confrontation, silence is your best friend. In such situations your silence empowers you and removes and sense of control from others. If this is difficult for you to do, mentally count to 10, 20 or even 30 before speaking. That provides you time to think and stay in control.

Use Silence to Focus Your Communication

“To communicate through silence is a link between the thoughts of man,” said Marcel Marceau, French actor and mime. Silence is the perfect way to say to an employee “you are important – I am listening to you.” Silence allows you time to not only listen but give importance to what you are hearing. It also helps remove the emotions from an issue and provides calm in the midst of a storm. The strategic use of silence allows the workforce to speak up without retribution. They feel heard, not judged. They will voluntarily seek you out to communicate their needs and point out problems. Practice remaining silent so you can hear.

Use Silence to Encourage Ideas to Flow

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence,” stated Leonardo da Vinci, a leading figure of the Italian Renaissance. Not only did da Vinci believe it strengthened authority but also vastly expanded one’s ability to think and focus. Spending much of his time in silence creating and doodling, da Vinci wound up inventing, painting, sculpting, studying science and conceiving an endless stream of innovative inventions, often the precursors to our modern day weaponry. It was the silence that allowed the ideas to flow into his consciousness. It was the silence and observation that provided the fertile ground that allow him to create masterpieces like the Mona Lisa or The Last Supper on a blank canvas or the blueprint for a modern day helicopter. At least once a week put aside time to be in total solitude and empty your mind of the distractions – physically turn off electronic equipment, put your cell phone on airplane mode and find the peace and creativity of absolute silence. Do keep a pen and paper nearby to record your thoughts after you return from your mental silent retreat.

Use Silence to Emphasize a Point

“Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech,” was the advice of Martin Farquhar Tupper, English writer and poet. When you are the one speaking be very aware of the use of silence when making a point. Silence adds value and significance. Your silence makes the listener take note of what you just said and thinks “I’d better remember that” or wonders why was that so important and looks forward to your next statement. Silence is the non-verbal exclamation point at the end of a sentence or bold formatting telling everyone to pay attention. This takes a bit of practice but is very effective.

Choose to use silence as part of your leadership communication strategy as well as a development tool for your personal flow of focus, self-control and innovation. Remember that everything you say or don’t say plays a role in your leadership journey. The key is to use this power wisely.


Download “Use Silence as a Leadership Strategy” in PDF Format.

© Pat Heydlauff, all rights reserved 2015

Pat Heydlauff, a “flow of focus” expert, speaker and consultant designs workplace environments that fuel the flow of focus, maximizes productivity and yields future sustainability. She is author of the forthcoming book, Focus • Connect • Regenerate 7 Ways to Lead and Fuel Sustainability and published books, Feng Shui, So Easy a Child Can Do It, The Way We Go, Your Roadmap to a Better Future and Selling Your Home with a Competitive Edge. Contact her at 561-408-2708 or


About the Author:

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She creates environments that engage and focus your workforce. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage, Unleash the Power of Focus and published books, Feng Shui, So Easy a Child Can Do It and Selling Your Home with a Competitive Edge, and can be reached at 561-408-2708 or