Finding Your (Leadership) Voice
I've been coaching for years and one thing that I've seen over and over and over again in my clients is a difficulty in finding their voice.
No, I don't mean that they are struggling to speak or to make noise, but they do tend to struggle to know when to speak up (or when not to), when to be decisive (or when not to), when to be vulnerable (or when not to)...and most importantly, how to use their voice to bring their own leadership strengths to life.
I've found this to be true in both my male and my female clients, but there seems to be an added challenge for women due to the double bind that is often placed upon them. Because of that, I am targeting the rest of this article to women, but please know that ANYONE, no matter how they identify, can take these same tips into practice to truly find and own their voice in a successful way.
When it comes to women developing their leadership style, finding their voice and truly owning it, there is often a fear of being perceived as too loud, too b@#$%, too timid, too weak, too [insert adjective here]. Women are stereotypically expected to be kind, nurturing and compassionate, but then are called out for being weak leaders. Women are expected to be soft and delicate, and are called out for being aggressive and assertive when they are not. This is the double-bind. This puts an added pressure on women and younger leaders as they are working to establish themselves because the rules are challenging and change regularly based on who is judging. Women, and any diverse candidate, can have a hard time defining who they are in the workplace and maintaining any kind of authenticity. Have you ever heard or experienced any of these yourself?
“Women compare themselves and compete heavily with other women.”
“Women are compared to men and when taking on assertive roles are often called b#$%$, too aggressive or power-hungry. Or when displaying a softer, emotional side, they are considered weak.”
“Women have to work twice as hard as men to be considered anywhere close to equal.”
“Women have to do the job before getting it, whereas men simply take it without the skills in place.“
“Women executives are seen as only getting the job because of diversity measures. And then have to work every day to prove that they deserve it.”
My guess is that you’ve seen or heard something similar. So how can you really find and own your voice and leadership style without having to deal with those negative associations? How can you move beyond and avoid the comparisons? While it’s not a simple road, one of the most important aspects to being a good leader is to know YOU. To thy own self be true, right? So here’s a good place to start:
Step One: write down every aspect of your leadership style – no matter how big or small you feel that it really is. If it comes to mind, write it down.
Step Two: ask a few co-workers for additional descriptors. Go outside to your friend circle here too.
Step Three: sit with the list. I mean, really sit with the list and circle your top 5 preferred qualities, meaning the qualities that you really want to be known for and the ones that feel the most authentic and true to who you are as a person. These can be current attributes and can also have some aspiration to them too - but the goal here is really crystalize how you want to show up as a leader, and how you want your voice to be heard (e.g. do you want to be collaborative, decisive, intuitive, gentle, firm, direct, powerful, strong, effective, etc.?)
Step Four: write these words on a post-it note, tattoo them on your forehead, put them in the front of your notebook or on your computer wallpaper. Basically put them somewhere that you will see them regularly and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.
Step Five: OWN IT! Live and breathe that and every time you have a situation to speak, know that those qualities are your guiding light. Take one small step every day to lean into those qualities until they become second nature and that leadership voice is inherent to who you are.
Knowing who you are and bringing that best version of yourself to the table every day is a powerful thing. It takes intention and focus, but makes life easier and removes much of the fear that we can carry without. When we are self-aware and true to ourselves, adapt as needed to the situation around us and honor the gifts that we have, the rest will follow.
While this is a very high level overview of how to find your voice, know that you are not alone in this search. The coaches at WeInspireWe are experienced with helping individuals every day pursue this same question. We believe that by inspiring you, you have the ability to inspire many - and that can make a great world around us. We are here for you if you want to dig in deeper.
To schedule a free strategy session with any one of the WeInspireWe coaches, please click here.
Tami Chapek is the CEO, Founder and Head Coach at WeInspireWe. Tami believes in community and positive change and has dedicated her life to bringing these concepts together. By empowering one, we empower many - and she believes that answer starts within. Click here to book a free strategy session with Tami today.