Why Leaders Need To Speak Up
Nice agreeable leaders get fewer resources but more work, they are less effective, they struggle to manage their team, and limit their hiring pool.
The first time I managed a team, I struggled with my passive personality.
My new team had gone through several managers in the previous 2 years who did not improve their work conditions. They were frustrated with the constant changes, skeptical of my ability, and suspicious about my agenda.
A team member constantly complained about me, the company, and her work. At one point, she explicitly refused to work on what I had asked while complaining. She did this aloud in front of my entire team and several other teams, which could reduce the team morale and my reputation.
I was terrified because I knew that others were noticing how I would react. I did my best to handle the situation. However, I still probably came across as passive.
Throughout my career I realized that the top duties of a leader required speaking up and being decisive for the team and their duties. Hiring, managing people, securing resources are key parts of that role. And that is why I had to work on those skills.
I learned from experience that the leaders that avoid speaking up have 4 big challenges:
They get less resources
Leaders who don’t speak up get less resources and more workload than other teams because they don’t ask for resources, defend their budget, or say no to the wrong type of work.
It is the job of a leader to secure resources for the team to be successful, such as new team members, training, and even adequate office space. It is the job of a leader to negotiate work aligned to the vision of the team with other stakeholders.
They are less effective
Leaders who don’t speak up have less effective teams because they avoid giving constructive feedback, taking disciplinary action when needed, and commanding in times of higher risk, high stakes, and for safety.
Team productivity requires having hard conversations and making tough decisions in a decisive way at times. Even if those moments are not often, they are incredibly important.
They struggle managing the team
Leaders who don’t speak up struggle managing stronger-willed team members and aggressive behavior because they aren’t respected by them.
Team members who do not respect their managers will continuously push the boundaries to test what they can get away with and they won’t work for the leader or their vision.
Not only that, when one or more team members disrespect the manager’s authority, other team members will start to do the same. This will reduce overall team morale and productivity.
They limit their hiring pool
Leaders who don’t speak up don’t feel comfortable hiring people with stronger personality which limits their talent pool and team effectiveness because they don’t want to have conflict.
Great teams have assertive team members who can also speak up for their own teams and work. Occasionally there will be aggressive behaviors which need to be dealt with. A leader should not shy away from a strong and ambitious team member who may even outshine them.
Great leaders and managers must learn to be more assertive, so they and their teams can thrive.
The good news is that advocacy, decisiveness, and direct communication are skills that can be learned with assertiveness. Learn more about how to be more assertive at work here.