Last night I walked out at midnight and just listened. With no agenda and no plan, I just stood quietly, fully present to the sounds of nature… and felt amazed and grateful for all I heard.

When have you ever taken yourself out into a place of silence?  A place where the only noises are those found in the natural world outside?  What did it feel like to be there, with only the sounds of nature to accompany your journey?

Gordon Hempton says “Silence is an endangered species on the verge of extinction.” As an acoustical ecologist, Gordon is an advocate for the power of silence to our humanity and future well-being.  As he notes in his fascinating interview with Krista Tippett’s On Being Podcast*, “silence is not the absence of sound it is the absence of noise” and silence is a “think tank for the soul.”

In my reflections on these ideas, the podcast, and their application to leadership, here are some thoughts that came to mind:

Silence is ….scary. When we are in silence it is not clear what is coming next – what thoughts, ideas, beliefs, values will emerge from within or from others? What does it feel like not to know what is coming next in your leadership and in your life?

Silence is…inspiring.  Go into a beautiful place of worship, into a deep redwood forest, or  even 30 feet down underwater in scuba gear and the silence triggers observations, insights, wonder and gratitude at the delicate and amazing beauty in the world.

Silence is…good for our mental and physical health.  Research on the impacts of getting out into nature are replete with examples of how it reduces stress and anxiety, and even improves cognitive processing;

Silence is… powerful.  When we stop to listen with our full presence to a colleague or direct report, we are acknowledging the essential value of their lives, the uniqueness of their contributions and a willingness to let them to be heard and felt by another. When do we quiet the chatter and judgment in our brains to really stop and listen to those whom we serve with openness and curiosity, and a willingness “not to know”?

To be a leader is to know yourself, your purpose, your values and how you want to choose to live your life in alignment with all of who you are. What better way to get in touch with your essential being than to give yourself the gift of silence each day, if only for a few minutes? Who knows what questions may be triggered? What answers may emerge?

How can you challenge yourself to get in touch with the “think tank” of your leadership being?

* Reference:

On Being interview with Krista Tippett and Gordon Hempton (August 29th, 2019)


Jean Gasen

Jean Gasen

Jean has a passion for people in all that she does. As a leadership coach, facilitator and keynote speaker, Jean strives to enable confidence and competence in others to realize the best in themselves and one another. With a unique background in both higher education and industry, Jean loves working with leaders at all levels who are on the journey of self-discovery and growth. Jean holds a PhD in Educational Psychology from U of Wisconsin, is a graduate of Georgetown’s Executive Leadership Coaching Program and is a PCC-accredited coach. In her spare time, Jean enjoys working out, reading and savoring all types of music – from classical to rock-and-roll.

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