Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Find Your Voice as a Leader by Paul N. Larsen

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I’m a leadership geek and live to see people find their special “gift” and use it to impact others and personally succeed. Find Your Voice as a Leader by Paul N. Larsen is my dream book for seasoned and new up and coming leaders. I wish I had this book when I was just starting out in the world and especially when I was managing women who had little confidence in themselves and were timid in speaking up. They had the education, skills, and gumption yet, never had the voice to engage and speak their thoughts or opinions.

Paul asserts that leaders can be developed and that we all need tools to maximize our potential. In order to become a stronger leader we should seek to find our individual VOICE. He shares a great analogy to help us in our personal development every day. He breaks down the word “voice” into 5 simple and achievable elements. Following are the critical elements of finding your own voice and having the courage to use it:

  • Values - You need to discover your core individual leadership values and live them.
  • Outcomes – Become comfortable in creating a vision to achieve the outcomes that you are committed to. Envision goals before jumping into a project or plan.
  • Influence – The only way to develop credibility and respect is by building relationships through influence.
  • Courage – Leadership is hard and you will be challenged. You need to learn to be comfortable taking a stand and fighting for what you feel is important. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable and being questioned.
  • Expression – Communication is a key leadership skill. Be an advocate for yourself in building skills so that you can communicate your goals and ideas to others with confidence.

Paul’s VOICE model really resonates with me and is an effective framework for growing your leadership skills while having the confidence to share your vision with others and earn their buy-in to your ideas.  The model revolves around you and your values which are the foundation of your personal base. From there you determine where you are going and how to bring others along through influence. You need to develop a thick skin and be willing to stand up for your beliefs while being an effective communicator.

Paul structured the chapters in this gem around the 5 element of VOICE.  He shares impactful thoughts, ideas, and questions to ask yourself in each chapter. Paul’s writing made me feel like he was sitting next to me offering ideas and advice while guiding me to developing better leadership skills.  The book kept my interest and I became introspective about my own skills and where I need to grow.

I’m a visual person and I jumped right into Paul’s case studies that he shares in each chapter. The cases really bring Paul’s ideas together and enabled me to better understand each element in VOICE in action. I learn from the ideas and mistakes of others and the case studies effectively illustrated each element and its impact.

At the conclusion of each chapter Find Your Voice as a Leader offers questions and encourages deep reflection to ask yourself about each element. There is ample room to record your thoughts and I encourage you to do so. Use this book as a learning and development journal as you embark on your journey to become a better leader. Questions like “What are my strengths? Talents? Abilities?” will urge you to pick up a pen and start journaling or bulleting areas to focus on.

Paul contrasts two leadership styles in every chapter. The “Which Leader Are You” section at the end of each chapter shows a stark contrast between an effective leader and the leadership style we all run from. I think that copying the two styles and hanging it up on your mirror to view every morning would be so influential to start your day off right. For instance, reading the list of qualities a “Leader who lives their values” will inspire you to remember and build on your values for the week. Change the list out and rotate in the next list every week.

You may want to add additional weekly list to your mirror for growth. Paul shares vital “Declarations” for each of the elements of VOICE at the end of each chapter. The declarations will help guide your thoughts and actions while keeping you on the path to leadership success. If you feel yourself veering from your values or how you influence, go back to Paul’s lists and remind yourself of what is important.

Find Your Voice as a Leader offers an activity for you to focus on each 5 days of the week. Align each V-O-I-C-E element to a specific day to focus on and make it a consistent daily practice. You will be surprised how quickly you keep your leadership development in the forefront of your mind and how you grow week to week. Try it!

If all of the exercises and thought provoking activities at the end of each chapter aren’t enough, Paul offers some journal pages for your thoughts, notes and ideas. I recently started a Bullet journal and carry it with me. I can easily see me carrying Find Your Voice along next to my journal for further growth and reflection.

Paul wraps up the book with a critical chat about EI – Emotional Intelligence. We all need EI to some degree and it is a lacking quality in many leaders today. Leadership is never about yourself – it’s about others. You must be committed and live with empathy, encouragement, empowerment, and inspiration. In his leading style, Paul offers some key questions to coach you in assessing your own EI or that of those close to you. I encourage you to take the time to reflect on your EI and see where you have skill gaps.

Clearly, I was very inspired and enjoyed Find Your Voice as a Leader. It was a welcoming journey through building, influencing, and standing up for leadership – my leadership. Again, this book is a gift to anyone who has wandered off the leadership path or is a young leader. So many young people would benefit from learning about being leaders the “right” way not by watching those that “think” that they are leaders. I strongly encourage you to pick Paul N Larsen’s book today and start your own leadership journey or mentoring someone close to you!