by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director
I ask myself this question every time my voice is louder, more frequent or speaking as an expert. When our hope is to empower others, the way we are showing up as leaders may be our biggest problem.
We have seen:
Pastors or lay leaders who mean well yet take up all the air in the room.
They always know the answer to the question, so, like an eager child, they jump in with more information than is helpful. Their people sit quietly letting the pastor over-function. After all, who else could be as “right” as they are?
Pastors or lay leaders who sit with pleasant smiles on their faces without contributing anything to the conversation.
When asked their opinions, they offer a wishy-washy, I-don’t-want-to-share perspective leaving their people thinking they either don’t care or truly have no capacity.
I know these feel like stereotypes, but we see this more often than you would imagine. If I am making you feel uncomfortable, then you know what I mean. Here’s what’s at stake:
- When leaders act as experts, they shut down the conversation effectively shutting down the growth in others.
- When leaders have the loudest voices, they are not making room for younger people or for people who are not white or for the person in the room who may be sitting with the golden nugget needed for a break-through that will likely never be heard.
- When leaders take the safe position of not speaking up, they add to the resistance even when this may not be their intent. When they avoid lifting their own voices, they keep everyone stuck.
Finding your leadership voice takes real work. You have to know when to speak and when to listen. If you are unsure, err on the side of listening. If you are asked your opinion, give it in the most generous way. Bringing your whole self to the leadership table in a way that makes room for others and at the same time allows people to know your thoughts is mature leadership. Practice at home. Everyone will be freed to lead.