Finding your leadership voice

February 3, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

There are a multitude of personality and leadership style assessments you can consult to provide insights into how you process information and react in various situations. Some leaders are open and direct – they take command, solve problems and fix things. They’re comfortable being in control. But none of this guarantees that these leaders can build dynamic cultures, inspire others and earn loyalty and respect. Open and direct can easily translate into “command and control” leadership and micromanagement. Other leaders are closed and indirect – they share little and struggle with leadership communication. They avoid confrontation. In stressful situations, they retreat.

Between open and direct, and closed and indirect, there are endless combinations of thinking and behaviors. There are leaders that lead with their hearts and emotions. There are leaders that are relentless taskmasters. There are leaders that capture the imaginations of those they lead. There are coaching leaders, hands-off leaders, trusting leaders and distrusting leaders. At the other end of this conglomeration of thinking and behavior emerges your leadership voice. It’s what others hear and react to either positively or negatively.

It’s your leadership voice that defines you, but it’s also a voice that you are in total control of if you chose to be … and if you’re aware and disciplined enough.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to find and refine your leadership voice:

  • Control your obsessing: Leaders are notorious for obsessing over everything or just one thing. In the process, they spread their obsessive funk all over everyone. They disrupt workflow and productivity rather than improve it. Obsessing is worrying on steroids and the leadership voice that emerges is often one of panic, fear and indecision. The cure for obsessing comes from understanding the facts, establishing a time-based and realistic outcome, and taking action. Obsessive leaders stress everyone out and ultimately do more damage than whatever it was they were obsessing over.
  • Being approachable: If the whirlwind that surrounds you makes it difficult for employees to approach you, your voice cannot be heard. Interruptions are part of leadership and can be managed effectively and respectfully. Turning away or shutting down an employee that approaches you with an issue or problem turns your leadership voice into “you don’t matter.” A simple, “I want to give you my full attention, let’s talk in an hour,” transforms your leadership voice into, “You matter to me.” No one likes to feel insignificant or disposable. Your leadership voice can empower or de-power those you lead. The voice of the no-compromise leader communicates that everyone matters.
  • Honor different perspectives: The no-compromise leader’s voice is based on inclusion and collaboration. No leader has all the answers or a clear perspective on every issue. It’s as simple as the old adage, “There are two sides to every story.” The best decisions are based on the knowledge of multiple perspectives. The voice of the command and control leader leaves little if any room for others to be heard. Ultimately, the leader must make a decision, but collaboration and inclusion make even the toughest decisions easier to implement.
  • Strive for absolute clarity: There is no clarity in the statement “do this.” Likewise, change initiatives, projects and tasks that never stick or make it across the finish line almost always lack clarity. Absolute clarity takes time and preparation. It defines the desired outcome, timelines, accountabilities and available resources. It ensures that all initiatives and projects have an owner/leader. If everyone, or no one, is in charge, of any initiative, it is preordained for failure. People fight and work hard for a cause. Absolute clarity avoids the “this isn’t what I wanted … I should have done it myself” demotivating syndrome. So slow down and take time to deliver absolute clarity; the results will amaze you.
  • Keeper of the vision: The no-compromise leader’s voice is the voice of the company … and the keeper of the company’s vision. It’s so easy for that voice to get lost in the day-to-day craziness of business. And the longer that voice remains lost, the more people, including you, disconnect from the company’s vision and purpose. Simple daily reminders of what the company is striving for are the glue that holds a company’s culture together and feeds its collective passion. It begins with your voice sharing the vision at a level equal to strategies, initiatives and projects.
  • Celebrate and manage your idiosyncrasies: Every leader has his or her quirks. It’s what makes you YOU. You may be detailed oriented, vision oriented or passion oriented. You may be loud and boisterous or quiet and reserved. You may lead with your mind, your heart or both. You may be all about work and winning or about life balance. We all have our own unique way of empowering our employees, or else driving them crazy. Finding your leadership voice means celebrating your uniqueness and managing your extremes. The better you get at it, the more you refine your no-compromise leadership voice.

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Categories: Business Builders , Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up , No-Compromise Leadership

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  1. Neil,

    Love this. I always tell people that God gives us each unique abilities — some turn out to be our greatest strengths and some our weaknesses. The important part of doing so as a leader, as you’ve stated, is not losing your voice, but figuring out how to fine tune those abilities to best lead. Great MMWU!



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