If you’ve ever sat in a meeting harbouring a racket of ideas, concerns and questions, but failed to activate the voice – it’s probably through fear; fear of retribution, for being considered wrong or outcast from the team – there are many reasons, and you wouldn’t be alone. But think about it this way – your silence not only denies the organisation access to valuable insights but also, it shutters the window to your identity and capabilities. The capabilities you were employed to use. You remain unremarkable.
According to leadership development expert, Gillian Fox, the failure of people to speak up is one of the most common reasons people are held back from leadership positions.
“Qui tacet consentire videtur – or translated – he who is silent is taken to agree.”
“There’s a great Latin saying,” says Fox. “Qui tacet consentire videtur – or translated – he who is silent is taken to agree.”
Hardly the outcome ‘he’ would have been hoping for.
Once a senior executive at both News Corp and Pacific Magazines, Fox has been self-educated in the field of leadership through a curriculum of real-life, hands-on experience.
“Watching and mentoring my own staff of over 100 employees move towards success and higher achievement fed my passion to learn about what sets teams, leaders and high achievers apart,” said Fox.
And that passion prompted Fox to step off the corporate ladder to make it her business to give other others a ‘leg up.’ Ten years ago, a move that she describes as a “leap of faith” having no prior experience running a business, Altitude Consulting was launched. Then, nine years later in 2014, Fox refined her expertise and launched Gillian Fox Leadership Development.
“I wanted to understand what qualities people and teams needed to achieve in today’s business environment and to provide leaders with a better understanding of the attributes that lead to success,” said Fox.
A ‘leap of faith’ evidently worth taking, Fox has spent the past decade helping to develop leaders from some of Australia’s largest organisations including CommBank, Foxtel and Microsoft.
We know what holds people back from breaking the leadership sphere – but does it mean they’re in the homestretch once there? Not according to Fox's experience. She says driving results through others, influencing without authority, managing up effectively and backing yourself when tested are some of the most common challenges established leaders are striving to overcome.
"Some people do have a natural capacity to lead, but I’ve also seen great leaders who have worked hard to develop their own capabilities."
Clearly – leadership is not a question of, can you or can’t you; some of the strongest leaders currently in action were not ‘born leaders.’ Rather – if you have sights on that top job, or are thinking about starting your own business, the question you should ask yourself is: how well can you learn and evolve as a leader?
“Tracey Fellows is the CEO of REA group. Look at the results she has produced. She says that people who worked for her early in her career would laugh to think she had any natural ability as a leader. What does this tell us? That you can grow your leadership ability,” says Gillian.
“Undoubtedly some people do have a natural capacity to lead, but I’ve also seen great leaders who have worked hard to develop their own capabilities.
“They need to learn the attitudes that define highly effective people and how they can readily access calm, certainty and courage when the pressure is on.”
But remember – you need to speak up in the first place.
Dan Jacobs is the Editor for ShortPress and an experienced business writer across a range of industry sectors.