3 Traits of Leaders That Create a Culture of Speaking Up

What is your greatest wish as an employee?

As you ponder that question it’s likely that everything from being respected and treated fairly to being paid well and being valued has crossed your mind, which are all excellent things to strive for in a workplace! So, what do all of these things have in common? Most of them can be traced back to “being heard” in one way or another. As employees, and people in general, we want to know that our voice matters; that we matter.

I recently had the pleasure of reading an enlightening article in The Harvard Business Review on this very matter. Research they conducted proved that not only is it good for employees to be heard, but it’s great for businesses too. Therefore, as leaders, it’s important that we create an all-inclusive culture of speaking up.

As you can imagine, there are many more than three ways to accomplish this goal but every business I’ve known to have a culture that encourages their employees to speak up have had leaders that possess the three very important traits we’ll be covering today.


It should come as no surprise to us that a diverse workforce that feels comfortable communicating varying points of view provides a larger pool of ideas and experiences, but what does this have to do with leadership?

Research shows that leaders who welcome diversity are more likely to behave in ways that encourage innovative thinking and unlock the potential of their entire team. Diversity here doesn’t just mean race, religion, gender, and age. It also refers to culture fluency, cross-functional knowledge, gender smarts, and global mindset.

Leaders who understand that diversity is a tool and not a burden will naturally encourage a culture of speaking up because they’re not accustomed to putting their employees in a box and only consulting them when the task at hand happens to fall within the area of said box. Let’s embrace our differences and use them to our advantage!

Let’s embrace our differences and use them to our advantage! Click to Tweet


Have you ever worked for someone who left you or other team members out of important conversations and/or decisions? If so, it’s unlikely that you viewed them as an effective leader.

Leadership is about engaging and encouraging people while inspiring them to put their best foot forward. The best way to accomplish this goal is to make sure that each and every employee feels authentically valued and respected and is actively engaged in achieving a shared vision.

This type of behavior creates a sense of shared purpose among team members, promoting a common vision that’s based on shared values that are directly linked to team outcomes. Great leaders strive to design an atmosphere that encourages employees to speak up about ideas, opportunities, problems, and errors. This type of environment provokes the kind of innovation that keeps companies at the top of their game.


“Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” – Andy Stanley

One of the most important parts of leadership is engagement with your team and this simply can’t occur without listening to them. That’s why the best leaders aren’t just productive and strategic, but intuitive listeners as well. They recognize that knowledge and wisdom aren’t gained by talking, but by listening.

Want to become a better leader? Talk less and listen more.

Want to become a better leader? Talk less and listen more. Click to Tweet

Being a leader doesn’t mean increasing your volume of rhetoric, but instead surrendering the floor to others in order to pave the path to a new way of thinking. If you want your team to think outside the box, you have to be willing to listen to them when they do so.

There you have them, the three traits that all leaders who are cultivating an open environment in which their employees and team feel comfortable speaking up, absolutely must possess. What would you add to the list?

Want to be a better nurse leader? Check out these 6 things you can do differently to get a leg up in your leadership role!

Be kind. Take care. Stay connected!

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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations that want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day.

If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website www.reneethompsonspeaks.com.

Contact Renee today at renee@healthyworkforceinstitute.com to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.

About Renee Thompson

Dr. Renee Thompson is a keynote speaker, author and professional development/anti-bullying thought leader. Renee spends the majority of her time helping healthcare and academic organizations address and eliminate bullying behavior. To find out how you can bring Renee to YOUR organization or nursing event, visit www.healthyworkforceinstitute.com

There are 4 comments on this post
  • Renee Thompson
    Hunter Business School
    May 26, 2017 Reply

    This is great advice, I am going to share with my students.

    • Renee Thompson
      Renee Thompson
      May 30, 2017 Reply

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you understand the importance of equipping students with these skills!

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