Presence – No Need to Say Anything

© 2010 Scott Rudd

I’ve just spent several days with family in Scotland and reminded of the power of simply being present for people.

Today a simple leadership lesson on this from a military leader (shared by Tom Peters) and a reminder of the absolute presence of Marina Abramovic.

No Need to Say Anything

Another gem from Tom Peters’ piece called Acknowledgement , referenced in yesterday’s post “Be Thankful then fully acknowledge” :

U.S. Army General Melvin Zais gave a lecture to senior military officers which he
titled, “You Must Care.”

One vignette, in particular, struck me. General Zais offers this scenario: A junior officer (lieutenant or captain) faces an inspection of his troops in their barracks the next day. Zais advises, “Sometime in the evening, stop by those barracks. Just sit on a soldier’s bunk for a minute or two. You don’t even have to say anything. They’ll know that you know that they’re working their butts off to make you look good.”

I also found another article by Tom Peters referencing that “You must care” speech, which Zais concluded:

“I will … provide you with … the one piece of advice which I believe will contribute more to making you a better leader and commander, will provide you with greater happiness and self-esteem and at the same time advance your career more than any other advice which I can provide to you. And it doesn’t call for a special personality, and it doesn’t call for any certain chemistry. Any one of you can do it. And that advice is that you must care.”

I read what Tom Peters shared around General Zais a few days after writing: “Command, Control.. and Care“, so today I highlight from that piece these words:

So yes, you can command and control people if they have signed up as employees (or soldiers, in the case of the army) and as long as you pay them and otherwise adhere to their terms of employment or service, they are bound to follow your instructions and orders.

However, a leader and an organisation that show through their actions that they truly care for the welfare and wellbeing of their people, then that creates an entirely different dynamic.

It is simple. Care first.

Presence. Marina Abramovic.

So, there is truly powerful leadership if one is truly present for another, whether sitting on a soldier’s bunk or simply, in any way, quietly showing that you care.

To me one of the absolute masters of presence is Marina Abramovic the performance artist.

In October 2017 I wrote: “What happens when we find silence ?“, referencing Erling Kagge’s book “Silence in the age of noise”. In that book he wrote of Marina Abramovic and her famous performance art piece (in the photo above) “the artist is present”. I do encourage you to read the article and watch the video of her and Ulay. So powerful.

For now I leave you some words in that article from Kagge’s book:

“according to Abramovic, the opposite of silence is a brain at work. Thinking. If you wish to find peace, you must cease thinking. Do nothing. Silence is a tool helping us to escape the surrounding world. if you manage it, it becomes like “a waterfall in your brain“, she says.”

Presence comes from a silent brain. Be still, be silent in your mind and you can be present.

Also published on Medium.

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