Do you understand the power of the leader’s voice?


Recently, I was in a conversation with a friend discussing the power of the leader’s voice. The focus of the conversation was how many leaders don’t recognize the power of their words in the context of their teams. A well intended leader can change the direction of the team practically overnight with his words. If not careful, in the process, they may be crushing their team’s leaders unintentionally. Let me explain.

First, a personal example I would offer from my past is I recall “building up” a culture within a team over the period of about six months. We’d really started to establish trust, had a team inspired vision, and were all pulling together on the same rope. In fact, it was really starting to show in our performance metrics. Then, once a quarter, our President would make rounds to all the facilities to do all employee meetings. In concept, I am a huge supporter of this type of communication; however, time and time again, he would say something in these meeting which would “tear down” practically overnight every bit of momentum our leadership team had “built up”. Can you related?

Another story shared with me involved a leader of a growing organization who operates with great humility and is well respected by his entire organization. In their case, the senior leadership team had been going through a values and missions exercise working with the team. The final proposal of what the team had come up with hadn’t been presented to the leader yet. Then, the leader, well intended, decided to prepare a talk on culture for the staff meeting. During his talk, he emphasized particular values and characteristics of healthy cultures. In that moment, the leader brought unintended confusion to his organization. As the senior leadership team and him stepped away from the meeting, they were able to share that the values the leader presented had overlap with what the team had developed and was about to propose; however, the language was different. Thus, since the words came from the leaders mouth, the organization was starting to hang on his words, adopt his language, and confused the work they’d been apart over the past six months.

To some, these example may seem trivial; however, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of these types of situation, you understand. Unfortunately, we live in a world that places leaders on a pedestal and, as a result, their words carry significant power. In contrast, some who understand this, don’t know what to do with it and tend to speak much less which may not be the best approach either.

What is the best approach? Well, I don’t have time today to get into everything; however, it centers around creating an environment where the leader has no more value than the janitor yet they serve different roles. Your team needs to realize that they shouldn’t be putting you on a pedestal and hanging every word you say. You must continually reenforce your confidence and empowerment of the leadership team you have place underneath you to a point of saying, “if there is a discrepancy, error on the side of your leadership team versus my words.” That will take HUMILITY!!!

That being said, you’re still the leader and people are going to continue to place you on a pedestal. Additionally, let’s not look totally past the position should carry some authority and respect. Thus, another key I would offer is communication. In both examples above, the leaders were speaking to large groups, if not their entire organization. In these types of settings, especially, you might want to script what you’re communicating and allow your leadership team to review upfront. One simply conversation upfront may avoid a tremendous amount of unintended pain down the road.

As aways, I hope this has spurred on some thoughts and would love for you to share.

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