Knowledge and inspiration can come from the most unexpected sources. You can read all the management books and leadership articles in the world and not get as much as one encounter with the right people at the right time.
That's what happened with me when I met the Brothers Koren, a pair of Australian musicians who've had a successful career touring the world with some of the greats. As "The Kin," Thorald and Isaac Koren have opened arena shows for the likes of Pink, Coldplay, and Rod Stewart. And as world-class singer-songwriters, they know a little something about getting in front of a crowd and letting their voices be heard.
And since I've met them, I've learned a lot about my own leadership voice as well. Like I said, "unexpected."
The brothers understand, better than most people, the metaphor about the small voices in our heads, and how (in their words) they "steal the microphone from the big voice" that we all have.
You can probably identify with their frustration that, when they were doing impressive things with their music and making great progress, the little voices in their heads were saying, "Yeah, but why aren't you as big as Rod?"
I asked these two remarkably insightful men to join me on stage at a leadership seminar. They got the participants sharing what their own small internal voices say to them.
These are some of the classics:
You're going to fail. No one wants to hear what you have to say. They won't understand. Don't say anything; they'll find out you're a fraud. You're unlovable. You don't deserve that. Play it safe. You're not smart enough. You're not going to make any money doing that. You're too much.
Here's what the guys prescribed for that audience: "Let the small voices exist. Just don't give them the microphone."
How do you do that? I broke that great advice down into three points to remember.
1. Understand that your small inner voice is trying to help you.
Know that it is there to protect you. It's trying to keep you safe, going back to your youngest, most vulnerable days of childhood. It's telling you to get back to higher ground. It's saying that doing something new, or speaking up, or taking a risk, might make you vulnerable. Appreciate that; don't just ignore it. Thank your small voices for trying to help. But next comes the important part:
2. Do it anyway.
Dare to do something new, even if it does make you feel less safe. Do it with a friend (or several). Collaborate, reach out, ask for help, ask for compliments. Realize that the small voice can be heard, appreciated, and then shut off in favor of choosing creativity and risk. As the Korens put it, "Perfection is entirely overrated." That resonates with me because I'm a guitar player. Should I pack my axe away because I'm not Stevie Ray Vaughn? No, and you shouldn't pack your business ideas away because you're not Warren Buffett, either.
3. Turn on the sound system and use that outer voice.
These days, the Brothers Koren are teaching aspiring songwriters how to dare to put their work "out there" in the world. Take a page from their song sheet and dare to put your own work out there, in whatever field you're in. You shouldn't have to tell yourself that you are worthy, valuable, and unique, but you do. You shouldn't have to overcome internal negativity to get where you want to go, but you can and you will. Don't postpone the opportunity to do the things you want to do "someday." You have to encourage yourself in a voice loud enough that it drowns out the inner negativity.
So, what are you waiting for? Turn on your microphone and step up to the stage.