Lisa K Bonner, SPHR, PhD

Lisa K Bonner, SPHR

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Sound Like a Leader

How to Sound Like a Leader
(Even When You Aren’t Feeling All That Confident)

Do you have the voice of authority and leadership when you speak?

Here’s how to sound like a leader who projects power and presence!

Speaking with a figurative “leader’s voice” is one thing. Imbuing your actual voice with the sound of leadership is another matter entirely.

We often hear about the voice of a leader in terms of vision. But much depends upon your ability to actually speak in a way that compels attentiveness, trust, and respect.

I’m talking about the sound of your voice and the power and presence you project.

It’s possible to be weak-voiced and lead a company or organization.

But in ways large and small, people will perceive you differently—and be more willing to follow you—when you invest the sound of your voice with the attributes of leadership.

The Dangers of Underperforming Vocally

Recently I worked with a client for whom vocal performance had become an overriding concern.

She held a senior position in her company and held frequent meetings with her global team. It had become apparent to her and her boss, however, that her speaking style was undermining confidence in her leadership.

As a business coach specializing in Voice and Speech Improvement, I know this isn’t gender-specific.

Both women and men may have problems achieving vocal dynamism.

About ten years ago, a coach who was having problems with potential clients called me. Prospects would question her level of experience in initial phone calls. “How long have you been doing this?” they would ask, and “How old are you?”  I must admit, I was guilty of thinking along the same lines.

When she walked into my office, I found myself facing a woman in her 50s with white hair.  (Not the younger-sounding woman I had talked with on the phone!)

I’m nearing 50 myself, and am often perceived as a much younger woman by my voice and my appearance. (Good genes, I guess!)

So there’s no doubt that your voice impacts perceptions of you. (It doesn’t matter that it isn’t right – it’s human nature.)

Below are three ways you can attain the voice of authority if it isn’t carrying its own weight in your professional success.

1. Learn to Control Your Breathing for Speaking Power

If your voice isn’t giving the impression of power, it’s not entirely your fault. We live in an age where we simply don’t need to project our voices the way we once did. Few of us work outside anymore, where our voices needed to carry across distances.

It’s all too easy now. Standing next to co-workers, holding a cell phone two inches from our mouths, or sitting two feet away from our webcams, we’ve turned into pale versions of the robust talkers we used to be. Yet our voices still need to convey our energy as speakers.

The place to start is with breathing exercises that can effortlessly project the fullness of your sound. Learn how to breathe with your diaphragm. It is breathing that creates the vocal energy you need to reach every part of your performance space and to sound like you mean business.

A good voice coach can seriously help with that! If you are a voice coach, let us know in the comments!

You literally need the energy to energize listeners and to make essential words heard.

Remember: the most important words usually come at the end of the phrase. Invest yourself with enough breath so you have the power to “punch” the idea or image embodied in those words.

2. Learn to Balance Your Sound to Achieve Authority

One reason you may have a voice that sounds too young is that you speak with too much “head voice.” Some people may speak with a “chest voice“. The former can come across as thin and lightweight; and the latter like an old stuffed chair left in the basement.

Yet each of these voices has advantages and disadvantages.

  • A strong head voice can sound young, bright, intelligent, and lively (though its sound doesn’t carry well and possesses no authority).
  • The chest voice speaker, on the other hand, has ample supplies of that last characteristic, though he or she seems to lack spontaneity and has a “fuddy-duddy” sound.

As you might imagine, you shouldn’t speak entirely with either of these voices. You need a balance between head and chest voice.

Tape yourself, and listen to whether you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other. Then work toward a happy medium. Here are some specifics on how to develop a more powerful public speaking voice.

3. Color Your Voice for Maximum Expressiveness

Finally, when you have enough breath support to power and sustain your voice, and you’re speaking with a mature and balanced sound, you can go for the gold. It’s time to develop a vocal style that uses the full-color palette of emotions.

Think of voice in terms of color: Too “pink” a voice, with work, may begin to reveal more “burgundy” tones, reflecting maturity and fullness.

Speaking in “grays” is possible, though that means there’s an entire array of coloration not being used. (All I can hear is “Bueller…” “Bueller…” “Bueller…”)

A sad-sounding voice contains too many shades of “brown,” and so on.

Audiences need to hear the emotions behind your convictions! When you speak, you’re leading, and you need to tap into the subtleties and nuances that reflect your intelligence.

Then, of course, there’s the sheer power of the voice that supports a call to action.

To get there, practice passages from fiction and poetry, which offer the greatest range of emotions to be expressed vocally. And, listen to audiobooks read by voice actors.

The above techniques will help you sound like a leader.

Learn to use them and feel comfortable with them, as you inspire and influence those who look to you as a leader.

What are some techniques you’ve used to sound like a leader?  Let us know in the comments below.

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Lisa K Bonner

In case you missed the memo... I WROTE A BOOK!
It's my first publication, a passion project. A little self-help, a little introspection, a few admissions, and more than a few insights into who I am. Definitely lots of sass. 😉

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