Be a Voice for the Voiceless
Using Your Leadership Powers for Good
If you’re a leader in any capacity, one of your key responsibilities is taking care of people in your charge. This encompasses many duties, but one of them should be giving a voice to the voiceless. Too many people, through underrepresentation or systemic oppression, have not been allowed a voice and have not been truly heard. If you’re in a position of leadership, people listen to you, and you have influence you can use to help others. Make the choice to lift up marginalized voices around you.
Here are six ways you can help give voice to others:
Create a Safe Environment to Speak Up
Encourage folks from marginalized groups to speak up and speak more. Say “tell me more about it,” then actively listen. Also, don’t let any bad apples discourage people from speaking up.
Don’t Speak for Them
Instead of paraphrasing or assuming, let people speak for themselves. If you’re in a private conversation and someone has a good idea, ask them to share it more broadly. 1UP: Don’t put anyone on the spot. Instead, give them notice so they can prepare. Or, if you don’t use someone’s ideas, explain why.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
If someone isn’t comfortable sharing with the group, make sure the idea is still communicated – and give them credit. Alternatively, if you’re dealing with a tougher crowd, you can wait until the room has buy-in, then reveal whose idea it was, but this tactic is less ideal.
Validate What They Say
You don’t have to agree with everything that is said, but you do have to respect the value of other people’s opinions. Your team looks to you to model expected behavior, so show respect.
Use Your Power
If you’re in the room, make sure other people are listening. Also, be mindful of your language – don’t undermine anyone, and be careful about using humor, as things can easily take a wrong turn.
Your experience is no more important than someone else’s, so check your own personal bias. Bring in outside sources to keep your biases in check as well.
The bottom line is: what people from different backgrounds say matters, so listen. It’s not their responsibility to change your mind, but it is up to you to understand where people are coming from. Anyone that comes from a marginalized group constantly has to explain why what they think is valid, while people of privilege almost never have to defend what they think. It truly should be the other way around, so do your part in making the change.