The 5 Voices of Great Leadership

Do you think of your leadership voice as a tool? One that influences people’s perceptions of you, drives communication, enables relationships, and brings others with you.

We’re always influencing; every conversation and interaction allows us to contribute to someone’s thinking in some way. A leader’s voice is reflected in how they react and respond in every situation; in setting direction, providing feedback, challenging the status quo, celebrating success and so on.

It’s not about being loud. Influence is your ability to adapt your leadership, in any situation.

Things are rarely black and white. Leadership isn’t about knowing the answer – it’s about judgement, intuition, and making sure you’ve got the loose tight enough to make a considered decision.

Capitalising on diversity means acknowledging, not hiding from, differences.

How do you do that?

HBR’s Jan 2018 article “You Don’t Just Need One Leadership Voice — You Need Many” suggested leaders cultivate enough parts of their voice, so that regardless of the situation or audience you face, you can respond in a way that’s authentic and constructive. Here’s my interpretation of the article’s five voices.

  1. Your voice of character

This part of your voice is about you being constant and consistent. Your character matters more than your results. Your team need to recognise what you value and what you care about. This is how you lead from the inside out, in a way though, that’s not “all about you”.

As a leader, you want to stand for something. But not so much, that there’s no room for anyone else to stand for something too. Your values don’t make you right. They are not a crux. That’s ego. There’s no humility in that. – Kylie Bishop, EGM Medibank

2. Your voice of context

Leadership and influence are perception and context based. Navigating through the shades of grey and not losing sight of the bigger picture is important. Others are looking for certainty from you. When we’re under pressure, it’s easy to cut to the chase, give the direction, and step away. We believe telling our expectations is enough. Context gives meaning that enables peoples to understand, appreciate and accept what the expectations or decisions are, even if they’re not agreed with.

If you don’t share the context, people will make it up – and probably get it wrong

3. Your voice of clarity

We’re all busy with multiple demands on our time. Saying yes to the work that matters and no to great ideas will keep you on track. Stay on your game and don’t get distracted by shinny things.

Remind the team why they’re there, what they’re doing and why it matters. People want to know what success is with you. Some will care about the end game, others will care more about the focus this week – give others the clarity the need.

4. Your voice of curiosity

Great minds don’t think alike. No one else is seeing it exactly like you. When you think differently, your experience of something will change. Appreciating the perspectives and opinions of others can frame your thinking. This requires self-awareness; recognising your beliefs, assumptions, and biases. Are you asking enough questions? How often do you challenge the status quo? Do you push past the easy thinking enough into spaces holding new insight, ideas and solutions?

You can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them. – Albert Einstein

5. Your voice of connection

Your ability to influence will come down to the strength of your relationships and connections, regardless of how good your ideas are.

People are complex. We’re motivated by different things. Your voice of connection is reflected in how you share stories, acknowledge others, get to know others, show vulnerability, as well as share your vision. When people connect emotionally, they care and commit more. Take time to find out what motivates people and weave this into your communication – people will listen.

Remember to lead from your heart as well as your head

Bringing it all together

Integrating your leadership identity, style and voice is an ongoing process of self-reflection and development. Which one of these leadership voices are you going to pay more attention to?

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