There’s a lot to love about contemporary American culture: It’s brimming with life, moving, changing and, ostensibly, always improving. But we’ve noticed something else about our culture: More often, its motion tends to be directed outward rather than inward.
Instead of mulling over our thoughts privately, we declare them to the world through open platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Popular culture and self-help gurus encourage us to “think on our feet,” join in and be gregarious risk-takers—but who is urging us to be quiet, contemplative, and introspective?
We live in an extroverted world and while we do believe that leaders must, by the very nature of the role, distinguish themselves if they want to influence others, we question the idea that leaders must lead through extroversion.
If you are a principal—and an extroverted one at that—here are a few reasons to consider the merits of quiet leadership.
The Power of Being a Quiet Principal
- Principals have the power to influence a school’s success, but rarely do they ride in on a white horse, bark a few orders and lead the institution to victory. No, they must first gain the trust of their colleagues, students, faculty and parents.
Influence comes with trust—and trust comes when we listen, give respect and build stable relationships.
A commonplace belief is that influence is an event, the result of first impressions, the clothes we have on, our demeanor and magnetism. We would argue that it’s actually the inverse: Influence is a process. If we think we’ll win over others by commanding the room, chances are that we’re not only going to alienate our colleagues, we’re also going to miss out on a lot of opportunities to learn from them.
- Our schools are diverse and so are the students, teachers and parents that are part of them. While many of us are accustomed to the dominant culture—one that moves and expresses itself outwardly— many cultures find this abrasive. Those with a quiet confidence are more likely to win over cultures that are less aggressive and prefer a reflective, low-key approach to leadership.
- Thanks to burgeoning technology, our culture has become accustomed to immediacy. And while we love and cannot deny the benefits of having it at our fingertips, we find that technology is not always conducive to that careful thought required of principals.
Here’s an example: On a daily basis, we receive dozens of emails from parents, teachers and staff. Some responses require only a short sentence, but others aren’t so simple and take time for us to quietly reflect before responding. When this happens, many of us feel like we have to make a snap judgment and dash off quick responses, but quiet leadership values reflection over quick action—and often the results speak for themselves.