Quiet Leadership (Brian Harris)

Quiet Leadership (Brian Harris) July 13, 2012

Guest Blog by Brian Harris (see at the bottom of the post for more details): Quiet Leadership

If you have ever ruled yourself out as a leader because you aren’t a dynamic, upfront person, you might find Badaracco’s Leading Quietly liberating. Badaracco has made a study of quiet leadership where he argues that the leadership qualities that result in long term success don’t revolve around charisma, but are more directly related to perseverance, tenacity and other centeredness, as well as a willingness to nudge rather than gallop ahead, and to arrive at appropriate compromises. He suggests that instead of finding brilliant ways to solve problems, quiet leaders look for ways to live with problems, and are willing to aim at what is reasonably attainable rather than only at what is ideal. They model restraint, modesty and flexibility.

As I’ve reflected on Badaracco’s views it has struck me that while many of them resonate with biblical values, the church circles in which I move are sometimes dismissive of them. Indeed heroic views of leadership abound, and I can name ever so many churches who are hoping to find a messianic style leader who will lead them to a utopian future. Such leaders are in very short supply, so their dreams are rarely realized. 

Could it be that instead of the good being the enemy of the best, the best is often the enemy of the good, as it blinds us to the giftedness of more ordinary people, who feel unable to mobilise their talents for the greater good? Because they are crippled by an image of an illusionary perfection that eludes them, they land up as spectators rather than participants, and once their quota of entertainment is saturated, they often opt out altogether. It’s a terrible waste of solid (if not amazing) ability.\

The theory of quiet leadership shifts the focus from leadership charisma to the tasks that leaders need to perform and the relationships they need to forge, to accomplish desired goals. Even formulating an inspiring vision is a task that can be systematically worked at. It’s a one step after the next approach to leadership, and it is within the reach of most who would like to make a difference. It has inspired me to write a book, Why the Tortoise Usually Wins: Biblical Reflections on Quiet Leadership, which Paternoster is due to publish next year.

As I wait for it to be published, I’m pondering a few questions. While quiet leaders are valued in business and educational circles (and some of the best CEO’s are pretty anonymous, albeit very effective leaders), does the church require more colourful leadership? If it does, what does it say about us and about our values? I suspect there is a lot to think about here.

Dr Brian Harris is the principal of Vose Seminary and Senior Pastor of Carey Community Church, in Perth, Australia. He can be contacted at Brian.Harris@vose.edu.au



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