Finding One’s Voice as a Leader

January 19, 2014

The most courageous act is to think for yourself.  Aloud. – Coco Chanel

While much has been written of in the field of leadership, little attention has been paid to the topic of developing a leader’s authentic voice.

Stephen R. Covey tackled the subject of “finding one’s voice” in his book titled, The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness in 2004.  In it he describes that “the 8th Habit is the answer to the soul’s yearning for greatness, the organization’s imperative for significance and superior results, and humanity’s search for its “voice”” (Free Press, 2004, para. 5).

The crux of his work focuses on unlocking meaning in one’s life.  In essence, he encourages individuals to seek understanding and identify what they are good at (their skills), what they love doing (their passion), what their needs are (their soul) and what their purpose in life is (their spirit).

When it comes to developing a leader’s voice, some authors have taken a different tact and have concentrated on communication skill development, such as honing one’s rhetorical techniques; or on practicing to speak persuasively.

However, when I think about finding one’s authentic voice as a leader, I don’t think about the mechanics or style of communication.  Rather, I consider that for an individual to first develop and then be able to lead authentically, they need:

  • The courage to be vulnerable – leaders need to be aware of and truthfully respond to their own (and others’) feelings.  They also need to demonstrate courage and adeptness at fostering meaningful human connections;
  • To embody their thoughts, feelings and beliefs; &
  • To be self-aware – leaders need to aware of and moderate their fixed-action patterns.  As Robert B. Cialdini describes, fixed-action patterns are automated “Click-Whirr” sequences of behaviours that can be easily influenced to obtain compliance. Managing these otherwise automatic behaviours allow individuals to present as per their true intent.


Cialdini, R. (2009). Influence: Science and Practice. New York: Pearson.

Covey, S. R. (2008, April 28). The 4 Steps to Finding Your Voice. Retrieved from Stephen R. Covey:

Free Press. (2004). Stephen R. Covey – The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness. Retrieved January 19, 2014, from Leadership Now: