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Creating Successful Leaders

“Silence is usually seen as agreeing.” –Sonya Parker

You probably know it when you see it. Something feels off or problematic. Something feels unethical. We encounter these situations in our daily lives, as well as in the workplace—instances when our morals are put to the test. It’s easy to assume that if you “see something, you’ll say something,” but it can be difficult to take action when you’re put on the spot.

How, then, can you gather the courage to speak up? Start with these methods:

Understand Your Power

When a situation is unethical or potentially harmful, one strong voice of dissent can make a huge difference. Chances are, if you’re not okay with something, others are not okay with it either. If you take a stance, others will hopefully gain the courage to follow suit.

Develop Your Approach

It can be intimidating to face your peers or your supervisors and let them know what you think. You might worry about retaliation or not being taken seriously. To combat these fears, it pays to 1) Plan and 2) Talk to others

Your planning might involve laying out bullet points to argue your case. Pinpoint the problem you perceive and explain why you think it’s a problem. Then, prepare some potential alternatives or solutions.

Talking with others helps to build an alliance around your plan. You certainly don’t want to create an “Us vs. Them” mentality, but it is helpful to talk to one or two trusted colleagues to let them know your stance. They might help you refine your plan, offer alternative solutions, or simply provide support.

Determine Your “When”

When you speak out is nearly as important as what you say. If, for instance, you interrupt during a meeting and begin telling everyone about your view, that might not go over as well as, say, setting up a private meeting with the decision-maker or respectfully speaking out during a meeting.

Face Your Fears

It can be frightening to take a stand, but I would argue that it’s even worse to stay silent. If you neglect to say something, you’ll have to live with the unethical or problematic situation, day-in, day-out. It won’t magically go away, unless another brave individual takes a stand.

If your workplace retaliates against you for speaking up, is that really the kind of environment you want to work in? I know that switching jobs sounds daunting, especially in this uncertain economy, but it’s certainly not impossible. Talk with a career coach if you’re thinking about making a switch.

Your voice has power. If something is making you uncomfortable, take a step back, make a plan, and speak up. Tap into your reserves of courage, trust yourself, and take action. Doing so can make a big difference and it will likely help you build confidence in yourself.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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