The woman sitting across the table was the vice president of a large company. She had multiple talents and an impressive track record. Yet as she spoke, tears flowed. She said, “I no longer have a voice. No one hears me.”
The word voice is most commonly associated with the notion of speech. If you can talk you have a voice. The vice president could clearly still talk. By voice she meant more than the ability to talk. In the relational realm a person with a voice is a person with a unique and authentic perspective. The word unique suggests deep thought and creative insight. The word authentic suggests a message that is genuine, real, accurate and trustworthy.
In organizations it is possible for people to go through the motions of transactional exchange, to become economic robots and think neither deeply nor creatively. It is also possible to become a fear-driven person who says what is politically correct. It is common in all organizations to sit in politically correct meetings where everyone is going through the required motions as disengaged robots. Conventional hierarchies are fear based contexts where few people ever acquire a voice.
Acquiring a voice requires a difficult form of work. It requires self-discovery or deep learning. Steven Covey (2011) had to this to say about the necessary effort.
You will find your voice when you can say you are 100% involved with what you are doing in your life, so that your body, mind, heart and spirit are all engaged in whatever is important to you. To find your voice, you need to examine your natural talent, what you absolutely love to do — what really interests you. And you must listen to the confirming inner voice of your conscience that tells you what is the right thing to do.”
What is the message here? Covey is saying that as we become aware of our most profound talents and how to use them to contribute to the larger whole, we begin to see our higher possibilities and purpose. We see how we can meaningfully contribute to the larger whole of which we are a part. As we articulate our highest purpose, we find the power to totally commit to the realization of that purpose. Meaning gives birth to commitment.
Total commitment requires movement. It attracts us to a unique journey full of uncertainties. We move forward towards the purpose without knowing how to traverse the next emergent obstacle. Yet, because of our commitment, we engage the obstacle that others would not engage. This means we have experiences others do not have. When we reflect on them, we learn things others do not learn. When we have purpose and live in total commitment we engage in discovery or deep learning and we have important insights.
The insights give us a unique message. Yet Covey adds another dimension, conscience. We have to orient to and respond to our conscience and do the right thing. When we are totally committed to our purpose, we tend to also become committed to the common good. Pursuing the common good becomes more important than the political pressures.
As we respond to our conscience we acquire moral power and we feel the courage to move forward while also feeling fear. While others are silent we express our authentic message. In doing this a transformation occurs. In the political context we become the voice of the common good. We represent the deepest good in every person present even those who oppose us. We become the verbal extension of the collective conscience in a political context.
Becoming the voice of the collective conscience is powerful and dangerous. The power can attract people to the highest good. It can also lead them to hunger for our destruction. Real leadership is not conventional management. Real leadership is a form of influence that comes to us when we find purpose and meaning, and invite others to the collective good.
What is total commitment?
Who in our organization works with total commitment?
What does it have to do with finding voice?
How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?