The 4 Leader’s Voice Styles: Everything You Need to Know About Leadership and Voice

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you never spoke? 


I have.


I imagine I would observe people and situations much more mindfully than I do now. I'd probably become a great listener. I may even become the "fly on the wall" as people might share far more than they usually would. Though staying silent may have its upside, not speaking certainly has its downside and would be challenging.


Not speaking as a leader is impossible. 

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I recognize that great leaders lead by example. I also think that actions speak louder than words. I agree with both of these statements, and yet, can you name any great leader who didn’t use their voice?


Knowing the importance of voice and its tie to leadership led me to name my business Leader’s Voice. For, you cannot have one without the other. They are intimately intertwined. Your voice defines your leadership and how you lead refines your voice. 


I believe in the power of voice, and I believe in the power of women's voices. Far too often, women overthink whether they should speak up, should share their opinion or ideas. We tend to consider our audience and whether or not we'll be heard. Even when we do speak up, we're often dismissed. This leads women to stay silent. And that is a tragedy — every voice matters. Every voice contributes to diversity, a powerful currency for any business, especially in today's world. When we speak up, even if it isn’t appreciated or doesn’t come out right, we offer a new point of view, a fresh perspective to an otherwise "vanilla" agenda.


We know that those who used their voice, who spoke up, were seen as more "…competent, socially skilled and leaderlike” (McClean). We also know that the type of language we use when speaking up determines how we’re perceived. When using a "promotive" voice – one that is optimistic, encouraging, and inspiring – increases our standing as "leaderlike." In contrast, using a "prohibitive" voice – one that is pessimistic, discouraging, and depressive – decreases our standing as "leaderlike." The bottom line? Speak up, always, but do so in a promotive way.


Considering the importance of voice led me to reflect on the different ways in which we speak and how voice contributes to our leadership. Through this, and through interviewing several women, I’ve identified four different Leader’s Voice Styles, each unique and powerful in its own way. Each with its shadows and opportunities for advancement. 


Kind Voice:


A kind voice draws its power from the heart. It lives in the essence of benevolence. Like Mother Teresa, it has the strength to serve and value others. It thrives in places of love and acceptance and avoiding anything harsh, unkind, or disrespectful. The strength of the heart allows this voice to create influential human connections. It is drawn to others who have depth, value service, and who cultivate genuine relationships. A kind voice will teach others how to care, listen, and develop skills that will help them complete projects triumphantly. This voice will guide and support those it leads, through sincerity and by example. 


The gift of a kind voice in an often noisy and harsh world means it will have to work hard, learning to speak up and be heard. A kind voice should learn confidence, remembering that it is valuable and essential. Conflicts will arise in leadership positions, and a kind voice will feel the tendency to shy away from anything unharmonious. It must use compassion and understanding to resolve these conflicts. Every place of light has areas that cast shadows. Shadows within a kind voice may involve becoming too comfortable in silence or timidness. It must understand these shadows within, without feeling limited by them. 


A kind voice believes that people matter most. It will be able to lead others toward this priority of kindness and understanding, creating a place of safety and growth for others. The essence of this voice is love, and there is nothing more powerful. 


Progressive Voice:


A progressive voice is kindled by the strength and movement of its body. Just like the body, the mind and voice are fluid and always moving toward new opportunities. The essence of this voice is innovation. It is curious, always searching for something fresh. What a gift of courage this voice is. It doesn't shy away from change; instead, it gains strength from it.


A progressive voice is a dreamer, and it inspires others to dream bigger than they've ever allowed themselves to dream. Fostering creativity and individuality, this voice won't be diminished in times of uncertainty, but will persevere. It has the potential to empower others to see beyond what is in front of them and reach toward something unknown, something that can create change. Because this voice is free-moving, it dislikes structure and limitations. It can tune out the voices skepticism and fear, discovering ways to prove those voices wrong. 


Like Sara Blakely, a progressive voice has a mind, heart, and soul of its own. It shouldn’t allow itself to be limited, though, remembering that other people contain voices of motivation and inspiration. It must learn to listen and value other voices. At times this bright voice may not realize the places where it can improve, such as learning to prioritize and paying closer attention to detail. It should watch for distraction or haughtiness, and challenge itself to find union and balance. A progressive voice will be the source of change. This voice is needed. This voice is visionary and powerful.


Intellectual Voice:


An intellectual voice emanates directly from a rational mind. It relies on intelligence and thoughtfulness for direction and guidance. It teaches its mind to think and process thoughts by discovering what is right. Striving for wisdom, to not only know the right way to move forward but how to do so. 


Like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, this leadership voice is heard because of its dedication and determination to change. It values responsibility and self-management; it is an independent voice that teaches others to rely on themselves. This voice dislikes incompetence and ignorance, so it teaches others how to think critically, how to discipline themselves, and behave with composure. 


An intellectual voice is blessed to be sure and well-spoken. This well-developed voice has the tendency to have a one-track mind. It must learn to open itself up to opinions and thoughts from all sides, listening to others. It strives to develop patience and humility. These characteristics won't change this powerful voice into a soft one; instead, they will enhance the thoughtfulness of the mind. 


It must tune in to its wisdom often, to gain strength and clarity. This voice must be cautious of disconnecting itself from other voices. At times this voice may be rigid or stubborn and should surround itself with people who will counter and compliment every aspect of an intellectual voice. An intelligent mind has the capability of greatness, but it is only in combination with an intelligent voice that it will change the world. 


Passionate Voice:


A passionate voice comes from the soul. This voice doesn't shrink in fear or worry about inadequacies; instead, it is bold and courageous. It is always moving toward a divine goal or reality with motivation and excitement. The energy of this voice is contagious, and others around connect with its vision and passion.


Passionate voices echo alongside other leaders, such as Oprah, inspiring, and uplifting others. This bold voice cannot be ignored because of the revelation it stirs beneath each soul. It is always building and envisioning, rejecting anything of apathy. It dislikes caution and rejects it with confidence. This voice is committed to passion and is always willing to speak up to further its vision.


Its motivation and confidence may need to find balance, practicing gentleness, and relaxation. A passionate voice must watch to make sure its aggression or pride doesn't drown out the voices around it, but instead must acknowledge others and allow their unique voices to fuel its soul. It must remember to create space for these voices; it must uplift and recognize the other powers in its presence. This bold voice can speak beyond what most can see, and its passion will help carry that vision to others, giving them more courage and helping them commit to change. A passionate voice embraces the inspiring nature of itself and uses it to transform the world.


Why does your voice style matter? 


Once you know your voice style, you are better suited to lean into your strengths and to strengthen your weaknesses. You are better equipped to lead authentically using your authentic voice. You are better able to understand different communication styles of those you lead and communicate with to pivot accordingly. And, you’re better suited to use a different voice style depending on your audience and environment. 


Voice is powerful. It carries a message and creates a brand. Voice is a reflection of you. In today’s business world, your voice will define you and your leadership. 


A world without voice would be a world without leadership. A world without leadership would be chaos. Voice and leadership are necessary for diversity of thought, diversity of action, and diversity of outcome. So, use your authentic voice today, to lead well.


To learn what your leader’s voice style is, visit the home page of my website today,


Source: “The Social Consequences of Voice: An Examination of Voice Type and Gender on Status and Subsequent Leader Emergence,” by Elizabeth J. McClean et al. (Academy of Management Journal, 2017)

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