Quiet Leadership: Discovering the New Strategic Advantage and the Hidden Talent in Your Organization

Tojo Thatchenkery

“A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind,” wrote Nelson Mandela in his autobiography. In the United States, leadership is closely connected to charisma and visibility. If you are not visible, you are not a leader. In many other parts of the world, especially in Asian cultures, leadership is not about being visible. It is the opposite: quietly doing your work and assuming that rewards will come. Can tacit assumptions about leadership lead to different outcomes regarding who occupies top leadership positions in corporate America and other organizations? What is the reason that despite founding one fourth of firms in the Silicon Valley during the technology boom, Asian Americans are still perceived as not “leadership material?” The evidence suggests that Asian Americans, a mere five percent of the U.S population has contributed a significantly high proportion of entrepreneurs and innovators. But they practice a form of quiet or invisible leadership because of an unconscious, deep rooted cultural assumption that leadership is about enabling and empowering, not about bringing attention to oneself and shining. Based on Dr. Thatchenkery’s new book on this topic the talk will highlight the leadership contributions of Asian Americans in organizational settings. It will show that empowering such invisible leaders can create meaningful and positive change in organizations.

A/V requirements: LCD, Screen, Lavalier Microphone, Two Speakers