Chalice Lighting Words

On 22 January, Elizabeth Welsh lit our chalice. It was two days after the election of Donald Trump as President of USA.

Last Friday (20 January) I’m sure you’ll have heard, the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of the United States of America took place. Today, however, I’d like to light the peace candle for leaders of a very different sort.

The Quiet Revolution is an organisation founded by American writer Susan Cain. It works on, amongst other things raising awareness of differences in temperament, and the value of quiet leadership in the workplace. The website asserts that:

‘Our workplaces favour an ideal self that is bold, alpha, and gregarious. Extroverts tend to be associated with these ‘ideal’ traits more often than introverts (and men more frequently than women). These favoured traits have seeped into our definitions of leadership, our creative processes, and our assumptions about what good performance looks like.’

Although there are many examples of quiet leaders who have transformed history, such as Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt, we don’t often hear about quieter leaders in the workplace. For example, The Quiet Revolution mentions the former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, Douglas Conant: someone who talks openly about his introversion, and also his shyness. In a podcast, Susan Cain highlights that, during Conant’s decade as CEO, he wrote more than 30,000 personal notes of gratitude to employees who made exceptional contributions to the company. That’s roughly ten to twenty a day, apparently written by hand, on his train ride home. This personal and sincere expression of gratitude was, he later reflected, important transforming the company’s fortunes. As Cain says in the podcast, an extroverted leader may have found an equally strong way to connect with the staff. However, the point is, there is more than one way to be an inspiring, humane leader, and the strongest leader may not always be the loudest voice in the room.

So, today I’m lighting the peace candle for recognising powerful, quieter, humane leaders: in our communities and workplaces, as well as the world stage.