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The Quiet of Water

As the ancient Latin proverb goes, still waters run deep.  There is a calmness about looking at a pond that is not moving.  Yet, there is also a sense of stagnation when a pond is completely still.  Only when the breeze blows does the surface of this still pond begin to have action. Still ponds can be deceiving – there is more than meets the eye.  What is below the top of the water?  Are there interesting fish or deeply rooted plants, or something even more powerful and possibly sinister? Still ponds create mystery.

There also can be mystery around leadership and leaders, which may or may not be a positive thing. Let’s unpack that…What the proverb “still waters run deep” means is that a quiet person may really have deep and complex ideas, there may be more than meets the eye to that person. Maybe a quiet or calm manner conceals a passionate nature below those waters – mysterious indeed. 

What does this mean as a leadership style? A key strength is that these leaders tend to be still and calm when all around is chaos.  We can all imagine how beneficial this quality is!  For many, having someone at the helm who is quiet and reserved gives a calming feeling of trust and assurance that everything will be OK. President Barack Obama comes to mind as an example. Often a person who appears quiet is a deep thinker with wonderful ideas that can inspire the vision, innovate business strategies, or take a movement to the next level.

A leader with this style who is silent, enigmatic, and “mysterious” can also feel disruptive and could side-track the effectiveness of the team, or the vision of the movement/goals. Feeling out of the loop, unclear or unsure is not a good thing for any team member. Is this leader communicating clearly with the team? Is everyone on the same page about the vision and plan, or are they left to wonder what’s running under those still waters?

For me, this type of leader makes it more difficult for me to align with the vision.  I begin to wonder if the leader knows where we are going and what the next steps are.  Is the leader the type that believes, as a friend once said to me, “I’ll know it when I see it.”  That may work for some, but not for me. In these situations, I find it challenging to really give it all my passion and effort, when I have no idea if the vision aligns with my purpose, like I’m on a ship moving into a pea-soup fog. 

I don’t mean to say that this type of leader is not powerful or up to the task. All leadership styles have their strengths as well as areas to improve. A leader like this needs to be sure that – somehow – the team knows and can align with the vision, that the strategies are clear, communication is open, and that in some way each team member feels heard, utilized and valued.

Under this leadership style, things can become stagnant rather than moving deep within the pond.  If you believe you might be this type of leader (or have one you’d like to understand better), ask yourself: Does your team seem to be just treading water or lying on the surface going nowhere?  Could it be that they are stuck in the weeds with no way out?  Have you not dropped your pebble in the waters to create the ripple effect through your team and beyond?  That pebble is your vision – it needs to be expressed to create movement deep within the pond.

No matter the leadership style, I recommend to my clients to do this type of self-exploration and assessment. Celebrate and leverage your strengths and power!  And look at how your style could either be helping things flow for your team, creating unnecessary and destructive raging storms, or stagnating the waters.

Leadership styles are fascinating to explore – Are you wondering what YOUR leadership style is? Then let’s schedule a conversation soon.

Or simply reply to this blog.



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