In a world full of self-promotion, be the authentic leader who chooses to elevate voices that inspire you. Organizations, teams, and even your heart will be happy that you took the time.
A few years ago, as a group of us sat in the Frye Leadership Institute meeting in Atlanta, I wrote down something that stuck with me. “Tell your story so that, in doing so, you elevate those around you.” Those words have stuck with me.
Why? Because in a world of self-promotion, it’s good to ground your voice in purpose and service.
If we think about the leaders we remember, they usually took the time to find a space for us in their work. They invited us openly, encouraged us quietly, coached us appropriately, and leaned into our story to find new ways to support our work.
They invited us openly, encouraged us quietly, coached us appropriately, and leaned into our story to find new ways to support our work.
Those leaders were practicing the art of elevating others.
To elevate others means that we support and uplift them, help them to reach their full potential and achieve their goals through encouragement, sharing their work, and inviting them into conversations where their voice could offer perspective and add value. Elevating others can look as simple as providing encouragement and sharing personal resources. Or, elevating can be as common as publicly recognizing and celebrating the successes of others.
Those that strike me as best at elevating others also see the needs and interests of others as part of our collective responsibility to advance the work in our respective fields. When you meet someone with whom you want to invest time and energy, you keep them on your “radar.”
It takes time to engage and learn about the work of others. More importantly, it takes time to “train your brain” to create space for actively supporting the contributions of our peers, our teams, and our (official or unofficial) mentees. It means you are keeping them on your radar and taking action to elevate them and their work.
Anyone can shout something out and offer congratulations, but I want you to think about how you create opportunities for peers to grow and succeed. When we as leaders elevate others, our actions show that we are a person who values and cares about the success and well-being of our teams, our field, and our peers.
It’s not a boastful badge of honor to value and care for others. Instead, it is a commitment to caretaking your field. The worst thing we can do is neglect our responsibility to pass on the legacy of our work. We must ensure that tomorrow’s leaders are as connected and reflective about the field's trajectory.
Elevating others shows that you are generous enough to leverage your resources and abilities so that others may succeed. No longer is our strength measured in how full our buckets are, but rather in how we are continually filling the buckets of others. Seeing strong, intelligent individuals covet their work and knowledge is exhausting.
We have to normalize sharing, elevating, and inviting others into our work.
When I speak with women in our SheLeadsEdu network, they often ask about how they can tell their own stories while elevating the work of others. When responding to those questions, I share tidbits from current research.
Research in networked leadership and professional mentorship is clear. As you practice the art of elevating, you are building a network, demonstrating leadership, learning from others, and building a reputation as a supportive, collaborative professional that is generous with their time.
While the practice of self-promotion has a long list of toxic outcomes, elevating others can create a virtuous cycle that benefits you and those around you.
You serve others, and you serve your field.
When elevating the voice of others, you are demonstrating knowledge, expertise, and strong leadership skills, including communication and empathy. The benefits of practicing the art of elevating are not just personal. Think about how you can activate “elevating” to improve your organizational footprint.
As research suggests, creating an environment that values and supports the work of others helps to foster a positive and inclusive organizational culture that benefits everyone. There is genuinely no downfall to elevation.
But folks, you can’t approach this art of elevation without authenticity. You have to mean it, be authentic with your voice, and understand that authenticity is one of the most accurate markers of influence. Today we know that authenticity is the key to building long-lasting, innovative organizations.
Authenticity allows us to show up with our true values, leads to more sustainable teams, and supports better organizational impact. As leaders, we must seek authenticity in our teams and hiring practices. Remember that the authentic voices who are intentionally elevating others are the ones who will lead innovation, propel your teams, and be honest cheerleaders for individual stories and collective contributions.
If you can’t tell, I am a big fan of the power that lies behind elevating the stories and voices of others.
Elevating others has given me three significant gifts. First, elevating others allows you to find your people (those that share interests, can push you further, and inspire you to keep going). Second. You realize what you don’t know and grow keenly aware that we are all truly stronger together. And third, when you elevate the stories, work, and impact of others, you more regularly experience that moment of clarity where you know you aren’t just doing the work; you are leaving a mark.
Those gifts influence every day of my work, and as I see more of our network engage in the art of elevating, I can see these gifts come to life in others.
The art of elevating others is essential in any field, but it is becoming imperative in education (where I often work). I would ask all of us to seek out those opportunities to elevate voices; the work is so much better when we rally behind one another.
As a friend said recently, “there is a special place in hell for women who are threatened by other women and try to hold them back.”
Let’s make sure that none of us end up there. Our work as leaders is essential, but figuring out how to elevate others might be the golden ticket we need the most.