Silence and Presence


I know what your typical day is like. I’ve not only lived it, but I’ve coached leaders who have constant interruptions when we are working together. I’ve heard employees like yours talk about how their manager is distracted. Being busy is seductive, and those distractions are “busy-ness” that can take away from your ability to be the best leader you can be. Your best nearly always happens in moments of “presence.”

Being present is a necessity for all leaders that goes far beyond just physically showing up. It is, as Halpern and Lubar explain in Leadership Presence, “The ability to be completely in the moment and flexible enough to handle the unexpected.” Presence, the opposite of distraction, invokes resilience, improved relationships, motivation and inspiration. It is generated by bringing silence into your life that is generated by going inward in order to take the journey that allows you to lead with heart to be with others in the here and now.

Ultimately, effective action depends on presence. Mark Gerzon, in his book “Leading Through Conflict,” tells of a situation where a group of executives intentionally moved through silence, reflection and presence – out of passive roles into active engagement. When asked about the connection between presence and action, a senior executive commented that the team moved out of a victim mode into becoming players because “a player has a full range of choices and a victim doesn’t.”

Silence is the foundation for being present. When we bring silence into our life, we also find that we can learn to be present with greater ease.

Ask yourself:

•    When have I felt most alive and fully conscious?

•    When have I been most effective at leading?

•    How could a disciplined practice of silence bring about a greater sense of presence in my life?

•    What improvements could occur in my leadership through being more present?

•    What will it take to bring a discipline of silence into my life?

•    What practices that bring about silence could I try? What am I comfortable doing?

You may doubt your ability to “stay still” in order to practice silence. The great thing is that you can find something that works for you. It doesn’t need to take much time. You can choose a practice that works for you, and you will notice immediate benefits in your ability to stay present.

The practice of silence is amazingly simple, but it is not easy for many of us because it takes discipline. To begin, schedule five to 10 minutes in your day to practice silence in whatever way works best for you. For example, you can write in a journal; deeply think about or reflect on a concept or value such as peace or abundance; or meditate, pray or participate in a spiritual or religious practice.

It’s not always easy to find the time, and it will take some effort to create a habit of disciplined silence. But you will find that it is well worth your effort as you increase your presence subsequently, your ability to motivate and inspire others.


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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.


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