There are seasons of life when the voice we once used is no longer appropriate, or maybe adequate to serve our purpose. Babies cry, children yell, teenagers argue, and in this progression, the goal is to be heard and understood. The goal doesn’t change, but the delivery method goes through multiple metamorphoses. In his book, Find Your Voice as a Leader, Paul N. Larsen defines what it means to find your voice and it has nothing resembling volume, pitch, or brashness. As a leader, your voice is meant to stand out in courage and stand your ground against influences that would rather go with the flow than fight the system.
Using the acrostic V.O.I.C.E., the author draws an illustration of his approach to finding your voice using the elements: Values, Outcomes, Influence, Courage, Expression
Leadership roles are a melting pot of ideals, goals, style, behaviors, and philosophies. It’s easy for voices to get lost in the blend of opinions and passions, and this is the crux of Paul Larson’s message. He says, “If you’re in a leadership position, you owe it to your team, your organization, your followers, and yourself to speak up. Get out and lead. Or get out-of-the-way.” With that directive as background, let’s take a tour of what he means by Finding Your Voice as a Leader.
Discover Your Values – What do you believe?
We all know this in theory, but how seriously do we look at the impact our values have? Being intimately aware of our values is the key to making decisions about how we will experience life. Knowing your values and being true to them is like having an inner GPS. Your values determine how you act or think. Your values must align with organizational values if you are to inspire trust among your team members and build their confidence in your credibility as a leader.
“Living your values is a key element in the VOICE model of leadership.”
Create Your Outcomes – What is your vision?
There’s a progression from vision to outcomes. I like the way Larson identifies the rungs of the ladder in that progression. He says outcomes are results, outputs are services or products you deliver, activities are tasks that produce outputs. Intent is the springboard to start the progression. He says put your focus on the outcomes. This means being dogmatic about establishing goals, then getting everyone on board with building the roadmap to get you there. To achieve the goals you set, you have to use your voice and not getting stuck at intent. This is where so many leaders go wrong. They know what has to happen for their teams to be successful, but they back down at resistance or settle for the status quo at the hint of reluctance or differing opinion. Your action must be purposeful and drive through intent all the way to outcomes.
Larson provides some fundamental guidelines to getting from positive vision and intent all the way to outcomes.
Exercise your Influence – How do you enroll?
If you think you have no influence, you would be wrong about that. If you are breathing, you are influencing in some way. Think of influence as an aspect of relationship. For this conversation, let’s focus on positive influence which is about encouraging, motivating, and getting people to follow you – because they believe in what you stand for and trust what you represent.
Notice that influence is not about talking louder, yelling or shouting. The inflection of your voice need not change for you to influence others. Positive influence doesn’t require power or authority but it does require that you know your values and convictions so you can focus on your outcomes. You also must know boundaries on what you can influence and what you cannot. Use your time and energy on outcomes and people you can influence.
Influence is bolstered by mutual help. Offer to help and ask your team for help. Through this practice comes direction and leadership needed to attain goals, vision, and outcomes. Two sections of this chapter have wise instruction on 1) establishing yourself as a trusted, respected, and likable leader; and 2) best practices to be influential and not invisible. You will be invisible unless you step outside your comfort zone to be influential. And that brings us up to the critical nature of being courageous over reticent in your leadership style.
Demonstrate your Courage – How do you stand out while standing alone?
Let’s look at how the author describes forms of courage. 1) Stand up for what you believe; 2) Speak up when nobody else will; 3) Behave differently than common; 4) Honor change; 5) Alter your opinion; 6) Be visible; 7) Stand alone; 8) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Courage doesn’t always mean conflict. Courage starts with being confident of your values and what you believe in. When the rest of the organization follows the same cadence, it takes courage to lead as a different drummer. Courage stems from principled leadership. Courage demands resourcefulness. Courage breeds confidence. Courage is challenging. Finding your voice is only possible by enacting courage. Courage might be initiated in small baby steps, but make yourself known, share your opinion, be assertive in expressing what your values and beliefs tell you are right.
Larson says we all have the capacity to be courageous. He offers 10 steps we can take to lead courageously.
Communicate your overall Expression – What’s your brand?
This chapter of the book begins with a novel idea. “Your leadership footprint isn’t made of sand.” Think about that for a minute. Your footprints leave a lasting impression. You have influence and what you do has an impact. To take it a step further – What is your leadership legacy?
Remember, when you are a leader, it’s not all about you. Relationship. Right? What do we need to have solid relationships? Gleaning a few things from this chapter brings me to these factors: Communication, Confidence, Commitment, Curiosity, Calmness
Communication channels that are consistent with more listening than talking, and more informative than flowery. Keep channels of communication open, assure everyone is on the same page and has the same understanding of values, vision, and goals while they work together.
Confidence means you project a credible presence so people know what you stand for and are willing to commit because they know what it will be like to have your leadership.
People who are curious spark imagination and creativity in others. Expressing yourself with enthusiasm for your vision will attract people to your projects.
Would you rather work with people who are explosive and get things done by coercion and emotional outbursts or is it your preference to learn, discuss, and do project talk without judgment or anger?
Considering these 5 aspects of expression, what is your personal brand? How are you recognized and further, how are you remembered?
“When you communicate your values, your mission, and outcomes, your influence, and courage, you’re expressing your brand.”
Back to the core of this book, your VOICE as a leader is your influence now and your legacy later.
Values – Outcomes – Influence – Courage – Expression
What makes this book unique is that Larson employs almost a teaching methodology to the text. He explains each of the characteristics of the V.O.I.C.E. acrostic but then follows up with a case study that helps readers immerse themselves in what they read.
OK so that’s common, but it’s not common to have a set of ‘Developing Self-awareness’ questions after each chapter that serves to help readers internalize what they are learning.
Paul doesn’t stop there. He then asks, “Which leader are you?” then proceeds to list positive vs negative behaviors that might resemble you.
Are you really ready to improve your voice as a leader? The author suggests 5 Declarations for making changes that will impact your leadership style.
But Paul Larson is not finished yet. He provides One-A-Day activities to get you to your goal of finding your voice as a leader.
Finding your voice as a Leader is a no fooling, no scapegoat methodology to being courageous as a leader and doing the right things to influence those whom you serve wherever you are.
This is how Paul N. Larsen describes V.O.I.C.E.
- Discover our core Values
- Create a compelling vision to obtain the Outcomes you want
- Build relationships with Influence and credibility
- Make decisions that reveal your Courage and confidence to take a stand
- Communicate your overall Expression for lasting impact
If you feel like your voice is not being heard, maybe it’s because you have fallen into the abyss of being like everyone else. This book will help you climb out of there to confidently stand on solid ground to be heard, listened to and understood.