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Leaders Don’t Just Speak for Themselves

As we rise up into leadership, we must learn to shift our rewards system to be from that of our own individual success to inspiring the success of others. We must learn to shift our focus to be from that of the day-to-day details to the bigger picture perspective of the business. And we must learn to shift our voice from one to the voice of many.

This perspective for the greater good makes for great leadership and the ability to be visionary, strategic and insightful.

But more often than not, as individuals are promoted into management, they are not trained to consider these shifts and do not understand how to change behaviors from self to the bigger picture. This is why management/leadership training programs as well as coaching are critical to grow the next wave of leaders in every company and on every team.

More importantly, though, than the masses, we must consider these type of leadership shifts when it comes to creating advancement and leadership potential for minorities and for greater diversity and inclusion.

Lessons to be Learned

I recently heard a powerful story from Valerie Jarrett on her time in the White House with President Obama. As the leadership team was ramping up in his first term as President, Valerie noticed that (and this comes as no surprise) there were very few women in the leadership room. For the few women that were there, they were experiencing great difficulty in speaking up and having their voice heard. They experienced being cut off, or with men repeating their same comment or idea (and getting the credit for it), and more. (i.e. the same stuff that happens in corporate conference rooms every day).

Rather than let this happen, Valerie pulled the President to the side and expressed her concerns – and the concerns were heard. President Obama immediately planned a dinner with his female leadership team to better understand the problem and to find ways to resolve it. These women were convinced that the dinner would never happen – but it did. And President Obama listened and made a pointed effort from that point forward to shift not only his but his entire leadership team’s behavior.

Before that dinner though, Valerie made a key point to coach all of the women going into the dinner to be open and honest with the President on voicing their concerns. She told them – and this is a paraphrased quote – that they need to be vocal and speak up, not just for themselves, but for the betterment of all female leaders involved.

A few big takeaways from this story are:

  1. Most people do want to do good and do not intentionally hold others back

  2. To achieve change, the issue or problem needs to become visible

  3. We need to not only speak up for ourselves, but on behalf of the greater group and the betterment of their needs

Lessons for us All

There is something very liberating and empowering about this – when we are afraid to speak up for ourselves, we can use these takeaways as reminders to give us strength to proceed. When we speak up for what we are experiencing, we are speaking up for what others are experiencing too. When we speak up for what we are experiencing, we are helping someone else to remove a blind spot. When we speak up for what we are experiencing, we are allowing people to be the best version of themselves.

What a powerful reframe.

By shifting it to be about us – and to that of the greater good and betterment of others – we can not only make things better for ourselves, but for everyone around us too. I hope that this gives you the power to speak not just for yourself, but for the good of others too!

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