Leadership is not just about talking—not that you’d know it by the number of articles written about what to say and when to say it! Many times it’s better to say nothing at all. As baseball great Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by just watching.”
With your team, it’s a good idea to watch what happens and listen closely when you ask a question. You can learn as much or more by what isn’t said and learn the subtleties of team dynamics by doing so.
When you’re giving a presentation, experiment with starting with a long uncomfortable pause. This focuses the audience’s attention, makes them uneasy for a moment, and gets them rooting for you since most will assume you’ve forgotten what you meant to say. Save this technique for high-profile speeches.
When you’re in a negotiation and the other side starts debating against itself, it’s time to clam up. They will give you information they don’t intend to reveal and it’s likely they’ll end up outsmarting themselves.
When someone else takes the credit for your work, you might want to let them. As President Harry Truman said, “it is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
Using silence strategically is an often overlooked leadership tactic. Don’t forget to use it when it makes sense.