“Brave Leaders are Never Silent Around Hard Things.”

Brené Brown

An employee once quit his job because of the discrimination he faced about his height. A client had referred to him with a derogatory term that mocked his condition of dwarfism. I will name this employee Raj (maintaining a false name for confidentiality). 

This event occurred during a meeting with the CEO and a few of his team members at the client’s company. Raj was not present during this meeting while his work was being critically evaluated by the client.

However, after the meeting ended and the CEO traveled back to his agency, a team member narrated the stream of events that occurred during the meeting to Raj. During the conversation with Raj, the client’s statement about his condition was revealed as well. Raj was deeply disturbed and emotionally hurt because of what he heard. Eventually, a month later, Raj resigned from the job.

There were mainly two reasons why Raj quit his job. Firstly, the client’s mocking statement demonstrated a lack of character and care for human conditions. Secondly, the silence of his CEO for not standing up for Raj when the client had made hurtful comments specific to Raj’s condition of dwarfism.

Granted that work gets evaluated on a professional front and constructive criticism is an acceptable practice. However, people such as angry clients forget that some of their statements can get personal and offensive to the point of no return. Furthermore, when such events occur, what is a leader’s position and how important is it for them to speak up instead of maintaining silence?

“Choosing with integrity means 

finding ways to speak up 

that honor your reality, 

the reality of others, 

and your willingness to meet 

in the center of that large field.”

Terry Tempest Williams

Some offenses cannot be tolerated, no matter the outcome of one’s action to quit a certain job. A place where respect is not considered is a place where a leader has failed.

The Ambiguous Leader’s Silence

There are times to be silent and there are times when silence is not an option.

When a leader is silent on various issues, it becomes a problem. This indicates their lack of interest in the welfare of his or her people, and their abundance of indifference toward the people, employees, or even family members. Maybe, this person who sits in a leadership position is only concerned with the company’s growth and scaling business. The events that take place among employees and other team members are not even considered as the secondary status, but rather the third or fourth position of importance.

In such cases, those who work for an organization are likely to quit or underperform until they quit or are fired from the job. A true leader will not let this happen, which means that a true leader’s ability to identify when to stay silent and when to speak up depends on their Spiritual Quotient.

Indeed, the CEO who was silent was mainly concerned with the client’s critical evaluation and validation. Also, things may have gotten too heated for the CEO to speak up at that moment during the meeting. However, what if the CEO had dissolved the situation later after bringing progress to the client’s work, and then addressing the client’s comment eventually but soon enough? This development would have mattered significantly for Raj. It would have helped him develop a stronger commitment to his work and the agency’s vision.

But this did not happen as his CEO never brought it up. He did not even try to resolve or dissolve the situation. The CEO was ambiguous and silent, which meant that he was indifferent towards Raj’s dignity as a human being.

A true leader’s fearlessness to do good

Silence can also be a leader’s best policy but not in every situation. Therefore, what we seek in a leader is the ability to seek when needed and avoid when not needed. This means that a leader must not become impulsive or too obsessed with the events that occur. They should avoid it as well in times when they are not approached. However, during circumstances where they are approached, the leader must respond or take action. 

A true and steady-minded leader neither seeks nor avoids but answers or deals with a situation only his or her advice or mentoring is required.

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