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Finding My Voice

A couple months ago in the Presidential campaign, we all saw Hillary Clinton become a little emotional when a reporter asked her a question. I was stunned by all the buzz generated by the press and subsequently chatted about beside water coolers and in coffee shops all over the country. A couple days after the event, Clinton remarked that perhaps she had "found her voice." I fully understood what she was driving at. Every leader needs to find his or her voice over time. But as a woman leader in the church, the challenge for me has been to discern what truly is my authentic voice, and what is an attempt to mimic the voices of male leaders I respect. In all kinds of settings, we have to discover what voice is the one that most accurately reflects our God-given instincts, personality, perspective, and story.

By nature I am a fairly emotional and expressive person. I don't believe this is unique to female leaders and communicators, though sometimes people assume that males will be more "in control" of their emotions and speak from the head more than the heart. Certainly there have been times both in meetings and in the pulpit when I have attempted to at least put a lid on becoming too emotional, avoiding the kind of blubbering that thwarts the ability to even choke out words. But to hide all my passion and deep feelings simply isn't me.

I have been discovering over time that the strongest connections made with individuals or with an entire congregation take place when I am centered, settled, and strong in my own voice, when I tell real stories straight out of my ordinary life, and when I allow myself room to express a wide range of emotion. Sometimes God leads me to speak with boldness, exhorting others and calling them to a higher level. Other moments call for tenderness, for genuine empathy, for bringing comfort to the hurting. And then there are times when my voice is all about laughter, looking at the absurdity of a situation and feeling the freedom to laugh out loud (Hillary has been criticized for that too).

The church and every organization are more robust, vital, and real when every person on the team is freed up to speak with an authentic voice. The challenges for women leaders and communicators are a little steeper, I believe, than those for our brothers. For the sake of those we lead - both men and women - we must continue the process of discovering and then expressing our voices.

I wonder how this journey has been for others? What has helped you to discern when you are communicating with your unique voice and when you are not? How has your voice been received by those you lead or teach? Has the expression of genuine emotion been difficult for you to figure out? We'd love to hear from you - in your own voice, of course.

April15, 2008 at 12:45 PM

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