Leadership can determine how power is distributed, or not, how much employees speak up at work and how autonomous we are to make choices that benefit our work environment and ourselves.
I’m staying with the word leadership and not leader, so as not to critique the leader as a person. Although you cannot change how a person is, we can look critically and constructively at a leadership behaviour including their words and actions.
What leadership style a leader chooses determines the working culture. And let’s be clear, how you lead a group of people is a choice and has an impact. And that responsibility is not considered enough by leaders.
Leadership styles can range from toxic to ethical, and anywhere in between. Toxic leadership can be identified by derogatory or rude jokes within the workspace, favouritism of some employees over others or control through fear, intimidation and power games. And these are all factors which inhibit voice. On the other hand, ethical leadership can be identified by acknowledging all employees as experts in their jobs, prioritising wellbeing and enjoyment over product and “success”, and recognising the group’s purpose is different from their own purpose. Ethical leadership promotes speaking up and looks more at a collective experience.