Free To Speak

In 2010 I acquired a rare neurological voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia. Speaking, something I had always taken for granted and done a lot of, was suddenly a difficult chore.

In the years that followed I worked with a voice therapist by the name of Connie Pike who also had SD but overcame it. She published a short book about her experiences titled Free to Speak, and that phrase has stuck with me ever since.

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Every human at work should be free to speak their truth and, in return, honor the voices of others. Each voice is a never-to-be-repeated gift to humanity. Yet, over time, so many leaders have exerted enormous energy in an effort to limit, restrict, and control the voices of others. Human organizations of high value free the voices of those they serve.

I once gave a talk at a manufacturing company about the importance of making it safe for every voice to feel fully heard. Afterwards, an employee came up to me and said, “The last time I said what I thought around here, I got sent home for a week.”

As I wrote in my book, The Seventh Power:

Human organizations have historically been hierarchical and bureaucratic. Laborers were commodities. Nation-states were not much different. The population was expected to serve the empire first and foremost. Individuals were overtly and covertly taught to take pride in their expendability.

But deep change is coming. Society, long structured to put the empire first, is becoming individual-centric. This does not mean the end of collaboration and cooperation; it simply means that the ground rules for organizational excellence must be reinvented to fit the age we live in.

In the old corporate model, for example, the employees existed to serve the company. In the new model, the company exists to serve the employees. When this happens, corporate performance actually improves, but as the outcome of a higher calling. Honoring and leveraging the power of the individual human spirit is the new path to dynamic group performance.

Great leaders disperse power, not collect it.

A tribe is made strong one individual at a time.