Time and again my coaching clients tell me that one of the best outcomes of coaching is finding and developing their leadership voice. They say how cultivating their leadership voice made a huge difference in how they contribute to their company and how good they feel about themselves.
So just what is “leadership voice” and how might you find it even without a coach’s support?
To me, leadership voice is an authentically articulated point of view based on integrating your values, vision, and purpose. It originates in self-awareness; it develops and deepens when combined with meaningful behaviors, and culminates in a lasting contribution and professional satisfaction.
No single activity can completely unearth your leadership voice; however, reflecting and responding to some or all of the following questions can help you define and declare it.
How to Use these Questions:
These questions are not all distinct; therefore you might have similar answers to the different questions; that’s fine and most likely helpful. Approach these questions with curiosity and playfulness. It might be best to be in a relaxing environment other than work when you answer; also, consider using a journal for your responses. Unlined journals will encourage you to write or draw or make a collage with your responses. Whatever you do, resist thinking that there is one “right” answer” to any question.
Ten Powerful Questions
1. What gets you up in the morning beyond the alarm clock, the dog, the kids and the train; and even besides the pay check? What motivates you to go to this job at this company at this time? Is it to get a promotion, develop others, solve problems, build a community, have fun?
2. What do you stand for as a leader? What core values drive your decisions? If you’re not sure, then think about a time when you were really angry about a decision someone else at work made – what value was not being honored?
3. What do you believe motivates others to do their best?
4. How do you believe change happens – both personally and organizationally?
5. What do you want your employees to say about you when you’re not around? What do you want your boss, peers, customers to say about you?
6. Who are you being when you are at your best?
7. What conditions make it easy for you to be your best?
8. What attitudes/beliefs move you forward? What attitudes/beliefs hold you back?
9. How do you define success at this point in your professional life?
10. What nourishes you?
How to Use your Answers
Look for common words, themes, values; then find a useful and creative way to capture them. For instance, write a professional mission statement that embodies the essence of what you discovered – ideally something short enough to remember and post on a 3 x 5 card. Or, if you are more visual, find or make a picture that symbolizes what you found. One client used a tree with various branches to depict her values and vision.
Talk about what you’ve discovered with a trusted colleague or friend.
Refer to your responses when you are struggling with a business dilemma or tough decision.
Use a compelling question from the ones listed above to generate meaningful conversation with your employees – either in one-on-one development meetings or in team meetings.
Ask yourself if your behaviors consistently align with your values. If not, what should you do to make them align?
Benefits of Cultivating Your Leadership Voice:
1. Being consistent and explicit in using your voice builds trust and fosters engagement as it helps your staff and peers understand what they can count on you for. It also feels good, which leads to doing good and feeling even better and doing even better!
2. Having clarity and certainty in your leadership voice sustains you during organizational change. You become your own anchor and you can also be an anchor to others who feel blown adrift by the stress of change.
3. You move from victim to victor as you use your voice to influence outcomes that are useful to the organization and meaningful to you.
Investing in these 10 questions is investing in your own renewal as a leader. You are creating vitalized purpose and passion by connecting who you are more clearly with what you do.