Skip to main content

Lead Quietly: How to Use — Not Lose — Your Voice

Lead Quietly: How to Use — Not Lose — Your Voice

While women are being encouraged in a big way to stand up, speak up and emerge as strong leaders, many are struggling as they attempt to reconcile feelings of insecurity as it relates to their own passivity. Its important that these women understand that leadership has less to do with how much noise you can make and more to do with how well you can motivate your team to produce the desired results.

As the debate on hard vs soft leadership styles rages on, we can at least agree that there are many styles of leadership which directly correlate to the leader’s personality. Some are stand alone styles but many are a combination which blend several different philosophies. Though traditional leaders are thought to be extroverted with take charge personalities, evidence is emerging that equally effective leadership can be successfully implemented with a softer introverted approach. The quiet assertive leaders who embrace a more collaborative style are gaining influence as management techniques and leadership theories evolve.

[Related: 4 Ways to Embrace Your Strengths and Claim Your Power]

There is a shift in our culture about how influence and power are defined. Recent management training and leadership seminars are leaning towards teaching motivational and nurturing strategies (which have traditionally been viewed as feminine), over the demanding and aggressive strategies (more often associated with male characteristics).

What exactly does quiet assertiveness mean?

We have long associated being assertive with being loud but that is not correct. Being assertive is also not the same as being aggressive. People often confuse assertiveness and aggression. An assertive person is able to maintain a stable and consistent presence at all times. When they speak up it is not in the form of an outburst. They are not demanding nor do they insist on getting their way. Assertiveness is a means of exhibiting gentle authority without putting others on the defensive. Aggression on the other hand is rooted in confrontational, hostile behavior or attitudes toward others.

Quiet assertiveness evidences itself through an individuals confidence in their ability to accept who they are, what they stand for and the manner in which they pursue their goals. They possess humility and exhibit a gentleness that guides their interactions with others. These are people who tend to focus on the use of actions vs words. They can generate excitement, and develop loyalty through the strengthening of bonds within their teams.

Lets look at some of the characteristics of quiet powerful leaders.

1. Quiet leaders have the ability to effectively listen with compassion and hear what is being said is one of the most valuable qualities of a quiet leaders

2. Quiet leadership is about collaboration, not about making decisions alone. Great leaders create welcoming environments where everyone is invited to contribute, share and participate in the process. Team members are given a chance to talk and exchange ideas in a safe environment and each suggestion is thoroughly considered and respected. The assertive leader uses all of the information to make a decision that everyone understands and aligns with, even if they are not all in agreement, and stands by his/her decision.

3 Quiet leaders check their Egos at the door. They do not tie the success of the team is to their own personal success. They are able to take constructive criticism from their team while remaining open minded, and will admit when they are wrong.

4. Lateral vs Hierarchal thinking is vital. Quiet leaders earn the trust and respect of their team by never asking them to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. They follow the guidelines and rules that they’ve put in place and that the team is expected to follow.

5. Quiet leaders are able to maintain grace under pressure. They are able to stay calm in times of crisis. The peaceful practice of passive resistance is their approach to dealing with conflict.

6. Quiet leaders effectively use verbal and non verbal cues to set boundaries. They choose words that challenge the persons behavior not the person themselves and are able to distinguish between the person and their actions without the use of broad negative generalizations. They utilize appropriate open body language.

There is value and power in leading quietly. We know that louder is not better. Quiet leadership is easier for those who tend to be more introverted and analytical in nature. But by consciously slowing down, setting boundaries and becoming more mindful, anyone can adopt a quieter leadership style.

[Related: You're Allowed to be the Boss: Women's Growing Need for Representation in Leadership]


An Executive Coach and Speaker, Elisa Grandizio brings 25+years of personal and professional experience as a wife, mother, businesswoman and entrepreneur. Currently her focus is channeled on providing professional leadership services and helping others attain excellence and balance in their lives. She can reached via

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook: