Silence of the Leader

Author Junot Diaz, interviewed by Bill Moyers about the focus of his writing said he finds the silence in the community and then inhabits it, brings it to people’s attention, causes the conversation that should have taken place. The idea applies to leaders and, for people in my profession to be effective, to leadership coaches.

Where are the silences in our community? Race is one example. Diaz says we don’t want to talk about race. We avoid it in our vocabulary. He implies that political correctness abets avoidance. Heroes is another. We would rather dwell on and aspire to be like those who do big things to which the media give big megaphones. The real heroes are those who contribute more to our community voluntarily simply because there are many more of them helping the disabled, feeding the hungry, serving the afflicted . They get small megaphones.

Each leader has his silences — subjects he/she would rather avoid: personal doubts and fears, frustrations, suppressed self-interests.

Each organization has silences as well: toxic executives and behaviors tolerated; unsung heroes and people who are the glue of the enterprise; expectations of 24×7 connectedness and continuous fire drill conditions; and fears of layoffs.

And the “small” heroes in an organization are seldom sufficiently celebrated to reinforce the desired culture.

The mission of the leadership coach is to inhabit the spaces of silence and work to make it safe for the leader to grow to deal with them. Thank you Junot Diaz for the inspiration.

M.I.T. Professor Diaz is a Pulitzer prize winning author. More on his convo with Bill Moyers at

That’s my view. What’s yours?


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What Made jack welch JACK WELCH

How Ordinary People Become
Extraordinary Leaders

by Stephen H. Baum (Random House)

Most leaders of American companies started out as ordinary people. What prepared them for the top job?

Countless more ordinary people of equal talent never developed the leadership core required to run the show. Why not?

"Lessons for life about the core leadership traits of character, risk taking decisiveness and the ability to engage and inspire followers."
--Jim Clifton, CEO, The Gallup Organization


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