Leaders are those people who give vision and lead an organization. It is highly typical of us to think of leaders as those who are at the top in an organization, as those who powers are concentrated to, as those who all the credit goes to. However, these assumptions are contradicted by Professor Joseph Badaracco in the video ‘Leading Quietly’. Professor Badaracco considers leadership to be a misleading perspective. He starts off by talking about the pyramid issue, which is that at the top are all the great people and at the bottom are mostly the sluggish people.
Yet, people in the middle layers are usually ignored. The professor highlights his research on five hundred cases which revealed that quiet leaders are those who choose responsible actions to solve everyday messy problems and thus enable organizations to run smoothly. Quiet leaders provide solid contributions to an organization even though their decisions do not get the limelight. They are not attention grabbing public heroes, hence the term quiet leaders is well suited. He says that messy problems are basically those which are right vs right.
He elaborates the point with the example of house of dreams where a person who looks up to his boss excitedly tells him about the house that he had always wanted to buy for his family. Yet, the boss is uneasy as he knows that this particular person’s name is on the list of layoffs. The boss has three obligations; duty of confidentiality, advice to a friend, and the truth. Not telling would be violating his friendship and telling would be violating his duty. Both options are correct though and so it is difficult to decide, hence this is a messy situation.
The best thing would be to tell that person indirectly about layoffs at other companies or the like, thereby telling but indirectly. The professor talks about whistle blowing through the example of an auditor who could not resist pointing out that whistle blowers are usually not liked by people of an organization in general. Quiet leaders do not kid themselves. They realize how much they know and how far they see down the road. These people realize the fact that the future is unpredictable. They are honest with themselves about how well they truly understand a situation. Moreover, they accept reality.
They are not cynics; rather they expect to be surprised. They expect bad things to happen and likewise even good things. It is important to look away from figures on the pedestal. People who work quietly need encouragement and recognition of some sort. They are often unrewarded as no one is standing by to give them a medal. Albert Schweitzer who was a brilliant musician and even earned the Nobel Prize in 1950s stayed in Africa and worked as a medical missionary. He said that people engaged in small and obscure deeds are thousand times stronger than those who get recognition.
The professor goes on to explaining that quiet leaders learn to trust their motives even if they are mixed. These people are concerned not only about benefiting organizations but even worry about self interest. They do not always have noble motives, as they have an equal amount of self preservation. They think about both self welfare and organizational welfare simultaneously. For instance, there was an example of a senior marketing representative who was marketing his company’s diet purpose product extensively to doctors and like.
Eventually he became uncomfortable as this product was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and could cause harm to users. Consequently, he stopped promoting the product and told the doctors, his colleagues, and his boss of his intention. He had realized that intake of the product was harmful to users and also the company’s representatives and marketing executives could get into trouble in case information had leaked. Professor Badaracco says had he any pure motives he might not have done well. Hence, it is not about the purity of motives, but the strength of motives.