Understanding and Coaching Your Leadership Voice


Mark Householder says that like a good singer, a good leader has to have a powerful voice with great range.

I have a great appreciation for music and I love to sing, but I have never considered myself a candidate for voice lessons. My musical “gifting” does not justify the time and expense. Plus, I’m in my mid-50’s... enough said!

Although I am limited in knowing what it takes to be an accomplished vocalist, I do know of one quality that can make a difference—range. Great vocalists are able to find a range of notes that exist within them, develop them and sing them out with a sound that seems to come from heavenly angels above.

But I am committed to developing a different voice. In the past few months I have invited some folks to coach me with my leadership voice. Every leader has a voice, and good leaders have a range of voices. My range is in need of growth and expansion. Lately, I have not been hitting some leadership notes; hence, the lessons and coaching!

Your leadership voice might be described as the way people experience you. It’s the feelings people normally have over time when they have been around you in meetings and conversations. Is your voice rigid and firm? Do you have a voice that is for people and their best or are you just about results? Is your voice understanding? Empathetic? Are you a good listener, or do you just talk too much?  Is your voice one that reflects humility or pride? You get the point.

Let me share with you five different areas where my range is being coached to expand. Here goes!

“Differentiating” voice — This is the voice where I need to understand and communicate my thoughts, opinions and feelings without evaluation. My coaches tell me to value (not evaluate and then shut down) my thoughts, opinions and feelings and get them out into the conversation. It is OK to be a different voice!

“Disappointing” voice — This is the voice where a decision is made that disappoints a person or the team. It can say something like this, “As a team we have listened to each other and weighed a lot of options here. I am making a decision that some of you will not agree with. Here is my decision and how I will address your concerns.”

“Immediacy” voice — This one is simple … speak up … say it! And say it sooner rather than later. The lack of voice here has really gotten me into some trouble. I do not take the risk; I avoid the conflict and I leave important thoughts and feedback unsaid. There is a time for filters in communication. There is a time to limit the filters and say what you need to say.

“Protest” voice — This is a challenging voice for a guy who has basically been a compliant, rule-follower most of his life (OK, there was a little rebellion in college!).  This voice says something like the following, “I am not feeling good about where this conversation is going.” Or it can say, “I am not in agreement with this direction, and here is why.” It is OK to go after an issue and stand in strong disagreement.

“My needs” voice — I am working to overcome the selfish feel to this one, but we all have needs and we owe it to people to let them know where we have needs. It’s their choice what they do with the expressed needs. When done in the right way, it is actually a sign of humility. God has put others around us to help meet our needs. And we have a role in communicating our needs to them. This voice can say, “I have a need to be able to vent with you without feeling judged.” Another example could be, “I need to know from you that my feelings are significant and not being dismissed or minimized.”

How about your leadership voice? What areas are you trying to develop and do you have people around you to help you get there?

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