...but the silence over that by the good people.”
I have written in this forum every month since we started RPC Leadership Associates, Inc. twelve years ago. The first post that year related directly to my military career titled, “Everyone looks like an effective leader...until the enemy shows up.” It was an expression used both in the military and in my business career to highlight the importance of effective leadership, of being an example to follow in any situation. As I reflect on more recent events, the words in the title by Martin Luther King resonated as the voices of effective leaders become more and more important in this dynamic business environment.
What, then, does it mean for leaders to exercise their voice and how can they become comfortable with the associated risk? Based on my own experience, I believe there are three key foundational elements to finding one’s leadership voice.
- Integrity ~ effective leadership begins with leading oneself before being able to lead others. One’s leadership voice is merely a reflection of the leader’s own values and beliefs. What are their core values that are non-negotiable regardless of the situation at hand? As my friend and fellow author John Blumberg states so eloquently in his book, Return on Integrity, “Having core values will cost you. Not having core values will destroy you.” Knowing and living one’s core values is the foundation for effectively exercising one’s leadership voice!
- Identity ~ effectively leading an organization regardless of size, market industry or lifespan requires the organization to have a strong sense of itself. Throughout my career, every organization I led had a stated Vision and Purpose. Even in cases where the corporation itself did not have a Vision, we created one of our own that gave us a sense of aspiration. Once the organization embraces their aspirational identity, it becomes easier to exercise one’s leadership voice around, “This is who we are and this is what we stand for.”!
- Inspiration ~ having a strong sense of personal integrity and organizational identity still requires action for the leadership voice to be heard. A strong conviction to the Values and Vision means action is the logical next step in the face of adversity. It means the leader’s voice may create conflict or challenge existing relationships and norms. Often, courage is used to describe effective leaders convicted to their decisions in the face of bad actors. One way or the other, effective leaders who do act on their values and organizational identity are a true inspiration to their followers and the culture which benefits from that inspiration!
Exercising one’s leadership voice in the face of adversity is not easy. It is risky and comes at some cost to the leader. The popular definition of integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking. I maintain it is doing the right thing when everyone is looking, because they all are!
How is your voice improving your effective leadership?