When Leadership Becomes a Silent Scream
3 Steps to Leading Out Loud
I’m not waiting for 2017. I’m not re-thinking it.
For people who really know me, they will appreciate that I’m finally listening to their advice.
I’m good at the appearance of leading out loud.
1. I own the spaces I occupy. I have a strong presence. I think, speak, and act strongly.
2. I am decisive. I connect dots quickly, I trust my gut, and I act fearlessly but strategically.
3. I have vision. I see and articulate what needs to be true with great clarity.
For as much as I do every one of those things, I hold back and prevent the fullest expression of myself because I don’t want to come across as too strong. I silence my strength, much like a silent scream. To grow to the next level of leadership, I’m changing that — now.
Having other people question my right to stand out front and to claim that space unapologetically — the one that I’ve earned — that’s enough to rattle my teeth. In those moments, I’ve had to stop and take inventory of my value, the opportunities I’ve created for people, the positive impact of my ideas and words on other leaders, the magic of making payroll when cash was tight, and the fact that I am always willing to coach. I wasn’t meant to be in the back and I wasn’t meant to stand down. When I do, I take that value with me.
Putting success in the context of “I” is uncomfortable because I don’t want people to think I lack humility. In an epiphanic moment I realized that in my attempts to be humble, I consciously disregard my accomplishments. Meek. Deferential. Unassertive. Submissive. Unassuming. Subdued. They may describe humility but they don’t describe me. I haven’t achieved success alone but why say “we” when at times the truth is actually “I?” In defaulting to the collective “we,” I fail to acknowledge my role to myself and to others. In giving false credit to people who have yet to make meaningful contributions I have done them and myself a disservice.
When my decisions are challenged, I find myself being apologetic for wanting and expecting things to be done my way. Jonathan Swift said, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” My way reflects my vision. I see what I see, know what I know, and I trust my gut but when others don’t trust it, I spend too much time justifying what I already know is right for the sake of being humble and collaborative. That stops now too.
Beyond the Silent Scream
1. Be inspired when someone challenges your leadership. Use that challenge to turn up the volume on the best parts of yourself and recognize when it is time to dial back a little of your treble or your bass. Most of all, be strategic after you get over being pissed.
2. Know that it is OK to say “I.” It’s the foundation of your personhood and your professional brand. Without it, you risk stunting and devaluing your leadership. Be intentional and accurate in your use of “we.” Don’t engage in false hype — it can harm leaders you are trying to develop. Give credit where it’s due and that includes saying “I” when it’s appropriate.
3. Preserve your apologies for real transgressions, not for your vision or your strength. Be the full expression of yourself. Own the space you occupy instead of merely standing in it. Make “the call” and make it clear that the buck stops with you. Most of all, be unapologetic for your strength. Manage it. Share it. Amplify it.
I’ve heard that silence may be the most powerful scream, but I know that silencing my strength won’t make me the most powerful leader.
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