This is the seventh post in my “Leading Ladies” series. I am so blessed to have Joann Corley in my corner. She has a wealth of knowledge and wisdom and like her own voice she inspires me to let my voice be heard fully. If you’ve ever been ashamed of your voice or tried to censor it this is a post for you.
The Force Within You
I remember during my childhood, becoming aware of a powerful force within me – let’s call it energy. It would surge up in undeniable ways in which it was hard to control – it would drive me to say or do something.
As I matured and became involved in personal development, I came to see that force as my authentic personal power. That surge of energy was my spirit, my voice was demanding to burst out onto the stage of life and from an early age that’s exactly what happened. That inner force continued to compel me to initiate first, act when others wouldn’t or hesitated…and there I was – out in front.That led me from being compelled to lead from the inside out to being appointed or asked to lead. Once you’re out there, folks just keep asking you to stay there.
I remember teaching my own swimming classes at the age of 14. I even found myself writing very opinionated letters to the congregation as one of the youngest ministry leaders in my church at the age of 16. It was clear early – leading wasn’t what I did, it was who I was.
Soon I learned through college and into my early working years, that this willingness to initiate and put yourself out there would serve me well and was a lot of fun! It was easier to build relationships, get cool assignments, and stay employed. In my entire career, I’ve never collected unemployment. Certainly, there were periodic employment gaps, but luckily not for very long.
When I finally launched my own company in 1998, acquiring clients certainly was a challenge, but in retrospect not nearly as hard as it would have been had I not been an “out in front kind of person” during my career.
All along, every step of the way – that force – that surge of energy was ever present, unwilling to be denied. Oh yes, there were times I tried to suppress it – it was annoying. I wanted it to be quiet – to give me a rest. But it wouldn’t!
There were also times it didn’t match what was going on around me. When I expressed it, I appeared odd or going against the grain; and even invited ridicule causing much heartache. And yet, it was ever relenting. I could only hold it in or modify its authenticity. I certainly couldn’t ignore it for logical reasons. My inner energy would have none of it!
To this day it keeps asking to be acknowledged and expressed. The result of which has been years of service in ministry, coaching, speaking, writing and other roles throughout my professional history.
What I’ve finally learned and come to peace with as a “leading lady” is to let my inner voice be the leader. I surrender to let that inner force lead me so that I can lead others. To let it speak as loud and unique as it needs to be for my full purpose on earth to be holistically and completely expressed.
Ever heard of that quote, “Don’t die with your music still inside you?” It’s like that – don’t continue to exist with your voice not heard. It was given to you for a reason! I remember seeing the singer Pink interviewed. Here’s a quote I’ll never forget. She said “I don’t let anyone speak for me; I have too much to say.”
Imagine for a moment if our many heroes and heroines allowed their voice to be modified or suppressed…where would we and our society as a whole be? Consider: Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem, John of Arc, Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Stanton, and Shirley Chisholm, my mom Marquerite Robinson…just to name a few.
And yet in the latest best seller by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, from her perspective we are still tempering, modifying, and undermining. This suggests that in every era there has and will be a fight to express our authentic voice. Maybe this is the result of how women have been conditioned. Is it harder or easier now? I don’t know – perhaps just different. No matter – our success and happiness is dependent on our collective social growth in this area.
So what does it mean to be a 21st century “leading lady”: Know, acknowledge, respect and allow your inner voice to be your outer voice. Don’t expect it to be like anyone else’s, don’t compare it to others, and don’t temper it to be acceptable and or fit in. Allow it’s full authenticity to be present and to continually reverberate throughout the precious short time you’ll be here on earth.
JoAnn Corley is the Founder, CEO of The Human Sphere™, a consultancy that helps companies increase profits through holistic talent management. The Human Sphere is a recently launched branding initiative that reflects JoAnn’s plan to use a more comprehensive, consultative approach in helping individuals and companies get more of what they want.
Also check out Joann’s fabulous blogs: The 1% Edge and HR & Management 3.0.