So many people are really good at what they do, but they find it hard to speak up. Some find it challenging to express themselves--not because they lack intelligence, but because the whole notion of speaking up scares them.

It is important that everyone's voice be heard, not only the loud ones. If you want to add value, if you want to know you are contributing, if you want to know you are making a difference, you must learn to find your voice and do so proudly.

Here are a few pointers for finding your leadership voice:

1. Don't allow the voices of others to overpower you.

The strongest and smartest people in the room are often not the ones doing all the talking. They're often the quietest, because they are listening and thinking before they voice an opinion. Don't allow others to intimidate you. Remember, they may be using volume to cover up their own insecurities.

2. Earn the respect you deserve.

It is a funny truth: Many people don't speak up for fear of losing the respect of others, but in reality, not speaking up will never earn you respect. You earn respect by speaking--and for being a world-class listener. The worst kind of expression is one in which people love to hear themselves speak. Be the kind of person who voices opinions and ideas only after listening and thinking things through.

3. Speak up when it's right.

Finding your voice does not mean suddenly becoming a chatterbox. It simply means that you mind your time and your voice and you speak at the appropriate times and places. Pay attention to your environment; if tension is high, you may want to be quiet for a few minutes, until the temperature in the room cools down. If the topic makes you uncomfortable, you may want to take up the matter in private. But if the time is right and you have something to say, let your voice be heard by adding something new and relevant to the conversation.

4. Tact and diplomacy have power.

Approach business and professional conversations with the right tone and with tact. Don't become defensive or emotional. Take the time to gather your nerves, thoughts, and ideas, and then approach the conversation with discretion.

5. Be proud, but be polite.

Being polite should be part of everything you do, especially in the workplace. Raising your voice doesn't make you look more confident; interrupting others doesn't make you look smarter; confrontational language doesn't make you look stronger.

6. Back it up.

The worst way to speak out is to have everyone's attention but none of the facts or data to support what you're saying. Make a point of doing all the necessary work beforehand. Don't rely on what you feel about the situation. When you back up your thoughts with hard facts and figures, people will be more inclined to trust you, respect you, and listen to you.

7. Be concise.

Don't let your mind ramble or your thoughts get away from you. Listen and learn, speak and be concise. When you have clarity, you have coherence.

Everyone wants to be valued and add wisdom to the conversation or situation.

Let your voice be heard proudly, and earn the reputation of being a valuable person.

Published on: Feb 19, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.