Leading from Silence

Our failure to listen, undermines our capacity to lead.

Some leaders bewitch us. Slick salespeople, they charm their way into our affections and confidence; promising this and speaking grandly about that.

Other leaders get the job because they speak well. They’re clear, articulate, compelling, funny, or entertaining. We’ll follow such people a long way.

Others have track-records of success and achievement. They get things done and let no one stand in their way. Their doggedness impresses us.

But in the Kingdom of God, a primary challenge for the leader is to listen…to both God and the people of God. Attentiveness, not assertiveness, stands as a primary quality. We lead others only where we ourselves are being led. We say to others only what we ourselves have first heard from the Lord.

Jesus declared, “I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught me.” (John 8:28) Too few of us follow His example.

Most writers on leadership extol the virtues of vision-casting, people-management, fiscal responsibility, focus, and hard work. Few talk about leading from the silences—those quiet places and spaces in our lives where we stop and listen to the Spirit of God.

Leadership that emerges from busyness reflects the chaos of our culture. Not that our culture minds. If ADD/ADHD was once considered a psychological disorder, it has now become an honored value among leaders. Exhaustion for the Christian leader used to signal a life out of control; we now wear it as a badge of honor.

Leading from silence requires an uncommon level of security and humility. Some things will take longer; other things won’t get done at all. If we fear failure or the perception of failure, we’ll opt for frenetic leadership rather than faith-guided leadership.

Of course, this “leadership from silence” relates to not just pastoral staff in churches, but to spouses in marriages, parents in families, managers in the workplace, politicians in government, and student leaders in schools.  

Leaders listen, or should. They hear the cries and the pleas of the people. They also hear the Spirit of God. And like the prophets of old, they seek not to impress the people or exercise power over the people, but to connect the people with the One whose Word and words change our destiny.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

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12 Responses to Leading from Silence

  1. Tim Long says:

    Thank you…

  2. Tim Ross says:

    Wow! What a powerful call to listen to God. I have come so far and yet I know I still have a long way to go when it comes to listening to God. Thank you David for continually pointing to Christ in all your writing. These are very encouraging words to stay in the Word daily, to meditate on it, and to just sit in quiet contemplation and…listen for that still small voice.

  3. Well said. A paradigm shift from so many of our leadership books this past decade. I am advocating that you speak on this topic at next year’s Global Leadership Summit (WCA).

  4. Millie Thompson says:

    Not just good advice for leaders, pastors, etc., but for lay people! I’ve been in James with Beth Moore and have learned a lot about listening!! As usual, David, thank you for pointing us in the way God would have us go.

  5. Chris Thornhill says:

    An outstanding and timely word, David. Thanks so much for this reminder and encouragement to put the ‘hard work’ into being this counter-cultural.

    • David Timms says:

      Chris, silence certainly seems to get lost in the clamor for success. Thanks for being a fellow subversive (as Eugene Peterson would say). Blessings in your new ministry!

  6. Tim Fichter says:

    I truly believe this is how God intends to move us all.

  7. erinambrose says:

    Hi David,
    What a beautiful post. How can we “be still and know that (He is) God” If we don’t take the time to be still and listen? In this season in my life I am learning to listen to God in a whole new way. Thank you for the encouraging word.

    • David Timms says:

      Erin, your own blog – as you walk through this valley named cancer – inspires me. Thanks for taking time to listen to Jesus and share the Journey. Praying for you and with you.

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