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The less you talk, the more people listen. The more you talk, the less people listen. To maximize your influence as a leader, you must find your vocal equilibrium.
One of the most critical variables that you have full control over as a leader is word count. It’s the law of supply and demand. It applies not just to economics, but to everything you do as a leader and everything you do in life. Think of it in terms of reading. More often than not, the longer the book or the blog post, the cheaper and less powerful each word will be. In leadership, the more your people hear your voice, the more insensitive they will become to your direction.
We’ve all had the boss that talks too much. In my last office job, the CEO loved to hear himself talk. What should have been 5-minute chats often turned into 30-45-minute monologues. We would also have daily morning meetings as a group. In addition to the massive waste of time they became, he would often become the only voice heard for the duration of the meeting. Meetings with him often prevented people from getting their work done. They repeatedly destroyed daily momentum of the company. And over time, people simply tuned him out. He threw his words around like pennies—cheap, and dispensable, and as a result, he devalued his influence.
Conversely, leaders who talk less, and lead by example, are ones who tend to earn the most respect. They treat words like 40-pound weights—carefully, purposefully, and sparingly, and as a result, people pay more attention. Thomas Jefferson was always known to be painfully introverted. His colleague in the Continental Congress, John Adams, even said, “during the whole time I sat with him in Congress, I never heard him utter three sentences together.” Despite his introversion, Jefferson went on to be one of the most influential founding fathers and of course, the third President of the United States. But the lesson here is clear: when Jefferson spoke, everyone listened.
There are very few leaders who fall outside the vocal extremes set by my former boss and Thomas Jefferson. But it is important to note that if you talk too little, you risk becoming an afterthought in the eyes of your team. Talk too little, and people won’t know where you stand. Talk too little and others will be forced to step up and take the lead. Talk too little, and it will effectively diminish your influence.
So, it is critical that you find your equilibrium. Speak enough to hold people’s attention, but don’t speak so much that they tune you out. As a leader, you must have your say. But don’t treat words like dispensable pennies. Treat words like 40-pound weights at the gym. Treat them with care. Pay more attention to them. Use them sparingly.
Don’t waste your words.
Maximize your influence.
Find your vocal equilibrium.