The Quiet Leader

I’ve been working with a client for several years now and noticed that one of their board members was quite different than the rest.

How so?  She’s quiet.

This is a board that likes to talk and debate and argue and discuss.  They talk over one another, talk around each other, and sometimes get quite animated. 

I began to notice over the past few months that “Mary” rarely participated.  In fact, often she sat emotionless yet you could tell she was listening.

But when she spoke, everyone stopped talking.  The room fell silent and everyone fixated on Mary.  They listened intently.  And nearly every time she spoke, they agreed.  They moved on.  They changed their behavior towards one another.  Agreements were reached.

In a recent meeting with their executive board, I mentioned my observations about Mary and the team.  Everyone was at first bewildered, even a little miffed at me.  Yet, they began to realize it was true. 

Everyone paid attention to Mary.


Mary holds no office on the board and never has.  She’s been on their board for 8 years.  She’s not the founder but has been a supporter of the organization for nearly a dozen years.  She’s worked as a volunteer.  She’s never missed a meeting.  She comes prepared for meetings.  She serves on committees willfully.  She understands her role in the organization and avoids the temptation to judge other roles (and people’s success in the roles).  She keeps the mission of the organization at the forefront.  She doesn’t have a personal agenda.  She listens before she speaks.

The board includes a respected doctor, several high-profile lawyers, entrepreneurs, a local judge, a news anchor, several pastors, a former city official, and the founder’s daughter.  All of these people are quite successful.

So, who do you think is the leader?

Just wait until Mary speaks and you’ll know.

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