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Setting the standard for quiet influence

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in Centerpiece,Leaders & Managers,People Management

Think of a take-charge CEO and you may envision a loudmouth barking orders. But that’s not necessarily the right way to lead.

Quieter, more measured leaders often succeed as well. By modeling the ability to listen and speak with precision, they contribute to a calmer, more trusting work environment.

Doug Conant was CEO of Campbell Soup Co. from 2001 to 2011. During that decade, he reinvented the company’s brand, reversed a steep sales decline and introduced new products.

Conant, 62, developed a specific way of communicating with employees. His goal: to make himself clear and get things done while leveling with others.

Conant began opening up about his quiet nature. He also shared his approach to gathering information and making decisions.

“I have this belief that it’s very important for a leader, particularly an introvert, to declare themselves,” he says.

He explained to new hires how he prefers to speak and listen. Specifically, he described his habit of gathering facts through careful preparation, identifying points of resistance and then initiating a focused conversation.

He even summarized his approach in writing, creating a document that covered how he leads and his business insights. Reading this document gave employees a better sense of their CEO’s personality, his preferred communication style and his perspective on the industry.

By eliminating the guesswork on how to communicate with him, Conant made it easier for others to raise sensitive issues and be open and honest. He’d tell newcomers, “If I behave consistently with this, then I guess you can trust me. If I don’t, I guess you can’t, but at least you will know.”

— Adapted from “How CEOs Can Use Quiet Influence to Get Results,” Jennifer Kahnweiler, ChiefExecutive.net.  

Online resource: Listen to Kahnweiler’s webinar on Developing Introverted ­Leaders.

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