I Found My Voice (and I didn’t even know it was missing)

A few years ago I was on the executive board of a non-profit organization that was being steered in the wrong direction by an executive director who was, quite simply, power-hungry. In his self-focused ambition to contort the mission of the organization to suit his own personal needs and desires, he had lost sight of the goals and purposes of the organization and the needs of the people we were trying to serve.

For months I wrestled with how to influence the situation in a positive manner. Long discussions with him and among the board and other leaders repeatedly led to no real resolution. When his behavior moved into the arena of being unethical and he refused to hear any voice but his own, I made the difficult decision to resign from my position as Secretary of the Board. I could no longer align myself with something that was simply not right. I had found my voice.

Within two days, more than half of the remaining board members resigned as well. They, too, had found their voices. While I had had no intention whatsoever to lead a mass exodus of board members, I had not realized that so many of the others felt the same way I did and had been afraid to say anything or take any action. I was immediately shunned by the director, who firmly rejected my offer to continue to serve in a less visible capacity on the advisory board. He also refused to even let me volunteer in any capacity within the organization.

As a direct result of me (and others) finding and using our voices, there was a subsequent overhaul in the leadership structure of the organization and today I both volunteer in the office and serve on the advisory board. The former director has “moved on.”

You may be asking yourself right about now, “Why is she telling me all this?” My reason is simple – to encourage you that in the face of a difficult situation you can and must find and use your voice to affect the positive change that needs to take place. As in my situation, you may not realize that others agree with you and are simply waiting for someone to take the lead and speak out.

And even if they don’t, speaking up and using your influence to affect change is empowering. Whether it is in the voting booth or the board room, from the sidewalk to the sandwich shop, find your voice and use it. Don’t be afraid of what others might think, say or do. Your approach to life and the situations you encounter is as unique as you are, and your voice really does matter.

So, clear your throat and step up to the microphone. Speak up. Speak out. Be the positive influence that will make the difference.

Watch brief video by John Maxwell on “Voice.”