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The Silent Side of Leadership: When Lack of Assertiveness Causes Issues

Are you holding back when you should be stepping forward?

Last week, we looked at the fine line between assertiveness and ego and the consequences you could experience.

This week, let's explore the quieter side: the cost of lacking assertiveness.

Equating silence with peace is common, but in leadership, silence can sometimes speak volumes about missed opportunities and uncertainty.

What others want

After engaging with a couple of clients recently, introspective leaders themselves, I revisited the feedback they received. Here are the main three points:

  1. Increased visibility: They are perceived as introverted and non-micromanaging, which is appreciated. Still, there's a desire for a stronger presence in both digital and physical spaces within the organization and to engage more actively with staff at all levels.

  2. Conflicts and addressing issues: They were recommended to confront challenges more openly to fulfill their goals, claim their space, and influence more definitively in meetings and across the organization.

  3. Adapt and assert yourself: They were advised to fine-tune their leadership approach, amplifying their assertiveness, especially with dominant personalities, while also honoring the subtler needs of those who prefer gentleness. This is where emotional intelligence plays its tune, shifting gracefully as needed.

A lack of assertiveness can render leaders invisible, leaving their vision and team without direction.

Is this reflective of you? 

  • Do you find yourself withholding valuable input during critical discussions?

  • Are you compromising your vision to avoid potential conflict?

  • Is the harmony of your team a result of agreement, or is it a facade for unaddressed tension?

  • Are decisions within your team being made by default rather than design?


This Assertiveness Chart provides a visual guide through the pitfalls of lack of assertiveness and the benefits of its well-developed counterpart. Check it out!

From quiet to assertive and influential

  • Voice Cultivation: Identify the barriers that keep you from speaking up. Is it fear of conflict or a lack of confidence in your ideas? Could you address these barriers with deliberate practice and mentorship?

  • Decision Affirmation: Simplify your decision-making. Decide with purpose and communicate your choices. This means not just making decisions but standing by them and ensuring they're understood and acted upon. (Hint: ask them questions to establish clarity.)

  • Conflict Navigation: Start seeing disagreement as an opportunity to refine ideas, not as a battleground. Develop strategies to engage constructively in conflict, ensuring your voice and the voices of your team are heard.

As a leader, your voice is important. It's not just about being loud; it's about being present, heard, and counted.

Explore areas where you need more balanced assertiveness.

Think about all the missed opportunities when you don’t speak up.

Be heard, and lead with both confidence and humility.


Want to work on assertiveness? Check out my program, Assertive and In Charge.

Start your journey to empathic leadership today.

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