Leadership is a life skill

Jan 14, 2023 | Blog, Resources

When faced with a decision, being “in the right” is not the only consideration. Leaders know when to speak up. There is a discernible difference between speaking and speaking up. From the mundane to the extraordinary, how you use your voice matters to those around you and those who will no doubt follow you. Your voice can create or change a space. 

In business, we often speak of the 5 ‘W’s’ and 2’H’s as a practical framework to gather information and address key questions before making strategic decisions. They include the who, what, when, where, why, how and how much. This is such a simple framework that we use it in our Summer Camps and entrepreneurship training for teens and pre-teens. It is the same framework when we work with adult learners, micro business owners, small and medium-sized enterprises, CEOs and business professionals. The fundamentals do not change, even as complexity increases.

It is no secret that the relationship we build and share with our parents from early childhood can have a lasting and profound impact on our lives. A few (short) months ago, a group of 35 young teens (13 – 15 years) were asked in our business leadership program to identify persons they identified as good leaders. These were their top 3 responses:

  • Gang leaders
  • Business owners
  • Mothers

By the end of the program, their responses had evolved. Stand-out similarities among their choices? Visibility. Proximity. Impact.

This is one of the many reasons that leadership is a life skill and not merely a business requirement. Leaders know what, when, where and why to speak or to speak up. Oftentimes, through the filter of experience, they refine the ‘how’ and ‘how much’ during delivery and in follow-up discussions.

So, what’s the difference between speaking and speaking up? Why does it matter? 

  1. When we learn language from early childhood, we learn to speak – to communicate. We learn the meaning of words (vocabulary), but not all the nuances. The trials of life, the trauma of the past and the turmoil of those around us should compel us to use language to speak up.
  2. Speaking may gain you entry to a particular space and place, but not beyond a particular point. When many voices speak it can generate a den of noise. A voice that speaks up pierces through noise. Even if it starts softly and shakily…it creates a ripple that can reverberate and grow louder. 
  3. You may be “dead right” is a familiar expression in Trinidad and Tobago. Although you may be right on some small point or infraction, is it worth rubbing another person’s nose in it, and damaging the relationship? Is aggressively pursuing the righting of some insult worth your time and effort? You may take in those considerations and do it anyway, but through the patchwork of memories, the filter of experience and the lens of maturity, you may well prioritize the other considerations beyond “I was right.”
  4. Whereas the world is replete with everyday examples of people who use their voices to express their thoughts, wants, needs and desires, in-person and on social media; in work, living and recreational spaces; there are comparatively fewer voices that speak up:
    • to right a wrong
    • to advocate for change
    • to give voice to injustices
    • to correct a misunderstanding
    • to go against conventional wisdom

Yes, speaking up is unpopular and difficult. It can disturb egos. It does rattle comfort zones. It may even offend. Yet, we only experience growth on the shoulders of those who speak up. It is at the root of all social change. History is also replete with examples where people who desperately desire change, resort to violence. The consequences are both sad and undesirable.

Leadership is more than a role or function. It is much more than managing people and delegating tasks. The world is still reeling from shocks in geopolitics, economics and energy that will endure in the coming years. There were some big inflection points pre and post Covid. Although our world may be big and complex, human progress is still very much about life on the ground, in our neighbourhoods and communities, up close and in detail.

We need voices that speak up to provide insights and make sense of the spaces around us. In forging a path towards a resilient future, even amidst the most challenging circumstances and a year of tumultuous change, each person is called to reexamine his / her priorities and build critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It is a mistake to rely on someone else to say what ought to be said. In fact, when you do not build the skills to effectively speak up, you suppress your voice.

Your silence will not insulate you.

Self-censorship may help you ‘fit in’ but it will not avoid harm.

Leadership is a life skill. When you consider the trials of life and the traits of leadership, you need the person who will respectfully call out the elephant in the room and invite others to do likewise. Leaders shape perceptions. The ones who can speak up most effectively have expanded their inner storylines through reading, travelling, listening, doing and even forgiving. They seek first to understand instead of debating through a ‘me-against-you’ lens.

Time goes quickly and mistakes can compound. When you draw others to you, lead by empowering them to be successful. Be a curious listener. 

  • Want to become a better business leader? Book a consultation call. Let’s chat about leadership tools, dispute resolution and building leadership skills.


Join our 2 Month Virtual Incubator Program

Business Clinic’s 2-month Virtual Incubator Programme provides training, guidance, templates and one-on-one coaching to entrepreneurs committed to growing their business, including conducting market research and developing strategies to successfully compete in the market. Apply online and get the skills and knowledge you need to grow your business!

More Articles

2023 Business Spotlight

2023 Business Spotlight

People go where they are welcomed and stay where they feel valued.  2023 challenged the idea of safe spaces. Safe spaces were disrupted by disputes, digitization, divided boards, layoffs, wars, home invasions, corrupt practices, grafted deals, theft and more. Post...

How to be a better salesperson

How to be a better salesperson

Learning a new skill can be difficult, especially if it forces you to push past your comfort zone. Similarly, being a salesperson can be challenging, especially when you are facing stiff competition and demanding customers. However, with the right skills and attitude,...