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Leader as Advocate: Speaking Up for Your People

There are many different approaches to leadership, each with their own merits and pitfalls, but these often split down largely into two categories – leaders who focus on the task at hand, looking at processes and practices, and leaders who focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of their team through wellbeing and collaboration. Neither is right or wrong, indeed we need a balance of these for our team to produce great outcomes and thrive personally and professionally.

Part of the team focussed side of leadership is being able to be an advocate for your team, someone who provides support and ensures all voices are heard, so that we can foster an inclusive and empowering work environment. Malala Yousafzai said, “I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” In this article, we’ll explore why advocacy is essential, how to effectively speak up for your people, and the impact it can have on your team’s success and well-being.

Why Advocacy Matters

  1. Empowerment and Inclusion: Advocating for your team promotes a culture of inclusion where everyone’s contributions are valued. This is particularly important for underrepresented groups who may feel marginalised or overlooked. By speaking up for your people, you help create a workplace where diverse perspectives are encouraged and celebrated.

 

  1. Building Trust: When you advocate for your team, you build trust and loyalty. Team members are more likely to feel supported and respected, which can lead to increased motivation, engagement, and productivity. Trust is the foundation of a strong team, and advocacy is a powerful way to cultivate it. We certainly both have had leaders in our careers who we felt deep respect and trust for because we knew they had our backs and would speak up for us when needed.

 

  1. Professional Development: Advocacy can also play a significant role in your team’s professional growth. By championing their achievements and potential, you can help open doors to new opportunities, promotions, and recognition. This not only benefits the individuals but also strengthens the overall capability and reputation of your team.
 

How to Advocate Effectively

1. Listen Actively: Speaking up effectively almost always first starts with listening. When we listen we gain understanding of the needs, concerns, and aspirations of our team. When we listen actively and empathetically, we encourage open communication and create a safe space where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.
 
2: Be Their Voice: Use your position and influence to amplify the voices of your team members, especially those who might be less heard. This could involve presenting their ideas in meetings or supporting them to do so themselves, giving them credit for their contributions, or ensuring their concerns are addressed at higher levels of the organisation.
 
3. Challenge Unfair Practices: Advocate against unfair practices and biases that may affect your team. Whether it’s addressing wage disparities, fighting for equal opportunities, or challenging discriminatory behaviours, your role as a leader includes standing up against injustices and fostering a fair workplace.
 
4. Mentor and Sponsor: Take an active role in mentoring and sponsoring your team members. Provide guidance, support, and opportunities for growth. Help them navigate the landscape of your organisation and industry and connect them with resources and networks that can aid their career advancement.
 
5. Communicate Transparently: Keep your team informed about decisions and changes that affect them. Transparency builds trust and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
 
When advocating for your team, be clear and honest about what you can do and manage their expectations realistically.
 

The Impact of Advocacy

1. Enhanced Team Performance: Think of which managers and leaders you have given your all for – they will be the ones where you felt listened to, supported and that they had your back. Advocacy leads to higher morale, increased engagement, and better collaboration, all of which contribute to improved team performance.

2: Retention and Loyalty: Employees are more likely to stay with an organisation where they feel heard and supported. Advocacy helps in retaining top talent and reducing turnover, which can save the company significant costs and maintain team stability.
 
3. Positive Workplace Culture: Advocacy fosters a positive and inclusive workplace culture where diversity is respected, and everyone feels they belong. This not only enhances the employee experience but also attracts new talent who want to be part of such an environment.
 
4.Personal Fulfilment: As a leader, advocating for your team can be incredibly fulfilling. Knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of your team members and contributing to their success can be one of the most rewarding aspects of leadership.
 

Being a leader means more than just managing tasks and achieving goals; it means standing up for your people and ensuring their voices are heard. For women in leadership, this role of advocacy both for our teams and for ourselves is particularly important in creating inclusive and supportive work environments. By listening actively, amplifying voices, challenging unfair practices, mentoring, and communicating transparently, you can be a powerful advocate for your team. In doing so, you’ll not only enhance your team’s performance and loyalty but also foster a positive workplace culture and find personal fulfilment in your leadership journey. 

Want to support the women in your team to become authentic, powerful leaders? Drop Sarae and Jen an email at Hello@SOARLeadership.co.uk – we provide coaching and training for women managers and leaders to step into their power and become advocates for themselves and others.