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Silent Influence: The Linguistic Twist of Listening

In the timeless words often echoed by historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "Let your actions speak louder than your words" serves as a cornerstone of effective leadership. This adage, deeply rooted in our cultural and philosophical history, resonates profoundly in both personal and professional realms. Seemingly more and more, we encounter individuals boasting of their unmatched capabilities or inclusive leadership styles, prompting a reflective question: Does one really have to speak it, if their actions truly resonate it?



The essence of the phrase "let your actions speak louder than your words" implies that our deeds hold more significance and credibility than anything we speak. It serves as a call to heighten our accountability for our actions, which aligns with the Greek notion that "words are the shadow of deeds." When we consider that only about 8% of verbal communication is remembered as opposed to 55% of our actions being remembered, the impact of our behaviors becomes clear. In fact, the things we DO communicate nearly 7x louder that what we say.


Effective communication stands as a paramount virtue in leadership, with active listening at its core. To authentically serve and guide our team members, a deep understanding of their needs, values, and vision is crucial; which essentially can only be understood through listening, not through a leader's mis-guided prolific need to hear themselves talk. Often, words can be mis-interpreted, lacking the tangible evidence that actions provide. Actions are seen as objective proof of our intentions, our integrity, and our capabilities. When a mismatch between what we say and do is observed, a leader risks damaging their reputation, their ability to garner trust from those they lead, and ultimately becomes isolated from a team that lacks motivation and engagement.


This is particularly evident in leaders who frequently tout their own actions or capabilities. Such behavior may suggest that their deeds alone are insufficiently compelling. This overreliance on self-promotion can indicate a deeper issue, possibly a lack of authentic leadership skills, akin to impostor syndrome. Often, an excessive focus on one's own narrative (talking all the time), or a "nervous parade of knowledge," is used to mask insecurities about facing an opposing or contradictory opinion; revealing a vulnerability in their ability to lead confidently and respond constructively to feedback.


If listening is indeed an action and a key component of leadership, it's critical for leaders to prioritize speaking less and listening more. Interestingly, if you rearrange the letters of "listen" you get "silent". This rearrangement is a poignant reminder of the relationship that must exist between the two; you simply cannot listen without also being silent. This linguistic play highlights a biological truth: listening and speaking cannot occur simultaneously. By embracing silence and elevating listening, leaders ensure their actions speak louder than their words, further fostering a culture of trust, collaboration, and mutual respect.

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