Speak for Yourself – Be A More Creative Leader


It is said that Daniel Day-Lewis, in his Oscar Award winning performance of Lincoln, sustained the voice of Lincoln for the duration of the filming.

He chose to speak in another voice.

But while that worked for Day-Lewis as an actor it does not always work for leaders. The other day the president of a large technology organization told me that an employee he was considering as his successor had one major disability. The employee always spoke only for his boss or his organization. Now while that made him an excellent team player it did not satisfy the burning question asked by the president

“What does he think? Because if he does not express his own ideas how can he be creative and lead an organization into the future?”

Signs of A Voice Not Being Heard

Not speaking with one’s own voice is more common than we think it is. It happens when people are

1.   Always quoting others as their authority.  They do this to support their position or bolster an argument. Now while it is imperative to cite one’s sources, give others credit for an idea, and not plagiarize, it is also important to creatively synthesize ideas and then express them in our own words.

2.   Adept only at speaking to the organization’s need. This is certainly important when one is trying to be a good team player, but there comes a time when others ask, “What do you think?

3.   Insecure about their own position or afraid of being challenged and contradicted.

4. Muting your voice as a woman and not raising your hand to speak in meetings because of gender bias by both men and women.

So how then do we know that it is our own voice that is being heard?

Signs of A True Voice

When one speaks with his/her own voice he/she is more

1.   Creative.

There are basically two types of thinking, convergent and divergent. Convergent thinking is where one takes existing data and conventional explanations to solve a problem. These may be helpful when giving directions for a standard procedure but are seldom helpful when exploring new territory. In contrast, Divergent thinking, otherwise known as creativity, is where one explores many possible options and connects data from disparate sources (diversity) into one clear and coherent argument.

2.   Courageous

One of the biggest inhibitors of creativity is the fear of what others will think of our novel idea. This becomes the voice of the “inner critic” that censors everything we try that is unconventional. It takes courage to throw caution to the winds and try new things. That could be about us living in a new place, traveling to unconventional destinations, or being willing to try a new idea in one’s work.

3.   Authentic

Speaking with one’s own voice comes from a place of authenticity and from the heart. It is a place where we operate largely out of the unconscious mind. This  ‘hidden’ mind is less constricted than conditioned forms of thinking that either regret the past or fear the future. It is thinking that occurs in the here and now. We usually access this mind in silence, dreams, listening to our observing self, and by finding ways to screen out toxic self-assessments. In the end, a person who speaks his or her own truth is an authentic.

Training to Speak for Yourself


There are some practical considerations when attempting to speak for oneself.

1.   Cover Your Back

We never realize our ideas in a vacuum. It is important to have key stakeholders on board before we venture into new territory. It is key to influence them on the contribution of the new idea, present some possibility of early wins, and above all have agreement of the need for change.

2.   Be Prepared to Modify Your Idea

The water cooler effect is an important factor when new ideas are being explored. Learning to fly trial balloons with one’s peers, people in other disciplines, and above all one’s boss is a key to getting it right when it comes to the adoption and execution of a new idea.

So go ahead and think and speak for yourself.

If you want to be a true leader that drives your organization into the future, makes a significant contribution to your world, and have the satisfaction of being creative, then

Trust your own voice.

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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