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Speaking Like a Leader

Effective leaders communicate ideas that help their organizations and teams progress towards a common goal. What they say may be just as important as how they say it. People may even evaluate the effectiveness of a speaker as a leader based on their communication to team members and the organization as a whole. Recent research in the Academy of Management Journal examined how “voice behaviors” (i.e., acts of speaking up aimed at influencing a team or organization) were related to how people evaluate speakers as leaders. The researchers also examined gender differences in the evaluation of voice behaviors.

There are two main types of voice behaviors: promotive voice or prohibitive voice. Promotive voice is the expression of ideas or suggestions aimed at improving functioning of a team or organization. This typically directs a team towards growth. Prohibitive voice refers to speaking up about concerns related to harmful team or organizational practices. This typically guides a group away from misconduct.

The researchers were interested if voice behavior impacted others’ evaluation of the speaker as a leader. They were also interested in the role of gender in this evaluation. The results revealed that speakers who used a promotive voice were evaluated more positively than speakers who used a prohibitive voice. When considering gender, women who used promotive voice were evaluated less favorably than men who engaged in the same voice behavior. 

McClean, E., Martin, S., Emich, K., & Woodruff, T. (2018). The Social Consequences of Voice: An Examination of Voice Type and Gender on Status and Subsequent Leader Emergence. Academy of Management Journal. 61(5).