None of us are born leading others but we are raised with an image of leadership through commanding presence. We expect leaders to sit at the head of the table. We expect to hear them speak decisively. We expect them to lead us.
Early in our careers we grow our influence by embodying these behaviors. Later in our careers we grow our influence by defying them.
When you are visibly present people learn to defer to you. When you weigh in on every conversation you make yourself critical to progress and become a bottleneck. You reduce the opportunity for those around you to step up and lead in your place. You cut off their ability to surprise you. Worse yet, you cut off their avenues for outperforming you.
True leaders leave their chairs empty as often as possible. They remain silent unless it is absolutely necessary to speak. Their conspicuous absence forces people to fill the void. Their conspicuous silence frees people to speak up.
And when such leaders do show up and speak, they find their gravity magnified many times. Such is the power of restraint. Such is the power of conspicuous absence.