The power to voice one’s opinion is vital; however, we must not underestimate the power of listening and hearing others as well.
On Saturday, millions of women, their families and friends marched in support of women’s rights- whether it was in Washington, Toronto or around the world. The expressed mission of these marches came from the Women’s March on Washington, and was to “stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”
It was, by all accounts, a powerful day filled with strong and passionate messages about women’s rights- and more broadly human rights- and a demonstration of leveraging voice in dissent of a leader’s alleged behavior, his language and stance.
It reminded me of an article I read in the Harvard Business Review entitled True Leaders Believe Dissent is an Obligation by Bill Taylor that suggests that in order for organizations to grow and prosper, leaders must encourage those with whom they work to speak their mind, especially when they disagree.
Taylor highlights that leadership must include humility, for, in seeking genuine feedback, one must also be capable of listening and being open to dissenting voices.
This is not an easy task as too often there can be a belief in leadership that, “If you are not winning, you are losing,” and a “tacit assumption…that life is fundamentally and always a competition.” These stances can have a significantly negative impact on the culture where one leads: be it a country, organization or community.
We at St. Clement’s believe that people grow and learn through open, safe, and supportive environments where people can speak up and know that they will be heard.
While this leadership lesson is important at all levels, at St. Clement’s we must ensure that through our teaching, coaching, and modeling, our girls understand, appreciate and experience the power of voice. However, it is also our responsibility to nurture their capacity to listen attentively and hear each other, so that each girl and our full community grow and learn in a positive and productive manner.