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How to Sound Like a Leader

There are many things to consider if you want to have an impact when you speak as a leader. Not to suggest that you will need to learn an entirely new way of speaking, but there might be some opportunities to improve how you sound to ensure that what you say supports your image and has the impact that you are looking for.

Everyone changes their sound based on their environment and what they set out to achieve. Maybe you have a "phone voice" you use when you answer the phone. Regardless of the chaos that might be going on around you, when you pick up the phone and say, "Good morning," the caller hears that calm professionalism you want to greet them with.

In contrast, we all have that voice we use when with our friends, on the street, or at the market. In some cases, you may have grown up with an entirely different vocabulary using forms of slang or other "street language." In business, however, you want to be clearly understood and respected by a diverse audience. So, as leaders, we apply a veneer or polish to our language. When it comes to how you sound, you'll need to decide what's important to you and the image you want to project.

When it comes to how a leader sounds, it’s all about controlling their voices to capture their listeners' attention. Here are a few areas to pay attention to when it comes to your sound and how you come across as a leader.


The way you distinguish or inflect your words creates an expression of emotion that tells your audience how you are feeling about the words you are saying. Good intonation lets others see your attitude and your enthusiasm of the subject and demonstrates the consistency in your words and actions.


Pitch refers to how high or low your voice is. In most cases, a lower-pitched voice is considered more of an asset. Both men and women who have lower voices are considered more credible, more sociable, and more relaxed. They are also generally easier to hear. If you have a higher-pitched voice, consider how you can best deliver your message by focusing on adjusting your tone in a way that supports your message.


Whether you are speaking too slowly or too quickly, your pace significantly impacts your ability to communicate. If people cannot keep up with what you are saying, you'll need to slow down. Speak too slowly, however, and your credibility can suffer. While part of this is about knowing our audience, the other part is about how you want to come across. Do you want to be seen as slow and methodical, calculated even? Slowing your speech might help get that image across. On the other hand, if you want to create energy around your message to get folks excited, picking up the pace might be the way to drive that energy up. When speaking, considering your pace will help you captivate your audience and drive the point you're looking to communicate.


Emphasis can change the meaning of our words. Making sure you place emphasis in the right places can clarify messages without changing what you are saying. For example:

o I was born in New York. (You, on the other hand, were born somewhere else.)

o I was born in New York! (How dare you suggest otherwise!)

o I was born in New York. (I wasn't born nearby.)

o I was born in New York. (I wasn't born in Boston or Dallas, or Los Angelas.)

Facial Expressions

When discussing how to sound like a leader, your facial expressions are part of that sound, they often speak louder than words. Positive expressions include smiling, eye contact, relaxed facial muscles, and an alert expression. Negative expressions include rolling your eyes, frowning, glaring, smirking, or looking tense. Sometimes we say things with our expressions without even knowing it. If you tend to be animated, try videotaping yourself while speaking and practice controlling your expressions to convey your message rather than what you might be feeling.


Facial expressions are not the only things that speak louder than words. The way you stand conveys a lot about how confident you are in your message. A good posture (head up, shoulders back, both feet on the floor) says we are confident. On the other hand, swaying, rocking, or pacing can make us come across less confident. As a leader, your employees need to see that you are confident in your leadership, and one way to do this is by having a posture that says, I am a competent and confident leader.

How you sound as a leader can have an impact on your ability to motivate, inspire, and persuade people. So, it is important to consider how you sound when thinking about the persona you want people to think of when they say your name.


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