Joseph Badaracco has delivered what is promised in the title. This is definitely “an unorthodox guide.”
Badaracco, a professor at Harvard Business School, writes against the grain of popular leadership authors who advocate “heroic” leadership, the leadership style that has been instilled in most who are leaders.
His thesis is that most leaders go through their careers never being thought of as heroes. Most aren’t high-profile, ethical crusaders, but rather just everyday leaders solving everyday problems.
“Quiet” leaders, he says, do what is right, think before acting and work behind the scenes. Quiet leadership uses “modesty and restraint.” The basic aim of the book sets forth working ideas for leaders who want to live by their values, tackle difficult and serious workday challenges, and do so without risk to their careers or personal lives.
Badaracco outlines eight principles of quiet leadership. Each one is devoted a separate chapter. The principles are: “Don’t kid yourself”; “Trust mixed motives”; “Buy a little time”; “Invest wisely”; “Drill down”; “Bend the rules”; “Nudge, test, and escalate gradually”; and “Craft a Compromise.”
Badaracco explains these principles in depth, adding one or two case studies to illustrate each one. If the reader becomes “lost” in Badaracco’s description of an “unorthodox” principle, the case studies clarify his point.
While many CEOs or pastor/leaders still might be tempted to be heroic leaders, Badaracco says there are benefits to quiet leadership at all levels of an organization. He describes “four guiding principles for leadership”, “four lessons for doing the right thing” and “four signs for knowing when you’re over your head.”
Church staff members will particularly enjoy this read. Most of the illustrations of quiet leaders are about those in staff or mid-management positions. Staff leaders often struggle with how to lead without being in charge. Quiet leadership involves balance, good judgment and not rushing to a solution. Badaracco’s insights are helpful for any leader feeling somewhat conflicted often having to choose between “right and right.”
The final chapter of the book is crafted around three quiet virtues: restraint, modesty and tenacity. Quiet leaders make the world a better place, he says, even if their efforts usually go unnoticed.
Badaracco does a credible job in redefining what is often called “servant leadership.” Robert Greenleaf’s original concept in Servant Leadership and Jim Collins’ thoughts in Good to Great are more to the point, but Badaracco offers some good insights into essentially the same principle.
The bottom line, according to the author, is that “quiet leadership is what moves and changes the world.”
Bo Prosser is coordinator for congregational life for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Atlanta.
Buy Leading Quietly now from Amazon.com.