Recently Adam Goodes shared a story about finding his voice.

I was all ears last night at an event featuring eminent Australian, indigenous footballer Adam Goodes as the keynote speaker. It was an intimate setting on the sixth floor of Sydney’s MCA at Circular Quay. An empty white banquette sat a few feet from the low stage so I headed over with my glass of champagne, soon joined by three other women.

Goodes was interviewed by TV presenter John Mangos. They’ve known each other since Goodes arrived in Sydney and seem close as family. The interview was warm and candid, covering school (Goodes attended thirteen primary and six high schools), footy (his first game was soccer, but that changed when he moved from South Australia to Victoria), family (lots of respectful and loving references to his mother) and getting married. Goodes has been married just seven months!

Mangos pointed out Goodes was an uncertain prospect and inconsistent player during his first years in Swans reserves and first grade. Goodes recalled an end of year ballot, where teammates voted for the most valued player. Goodes didn’t receive a single vote and didn’t know why.

It can be a turning point to receive such reflection from your peers. Incredibly Goodes turned that brutal thumbs down around in just twelve months.

He shared how he went from being a player without a vote, the man with an uncertain future; to be awarded the Brownlow Medal, the games’ most prestigious award, in just twelve months.

With the initial end-of-year disappointment he discovered how much he wanted to be regarded as a leader. He needed to find out how.

I also hear the confusion and disappointment of people who don’t understand why they are not already viewed as leaders. Why aren’t they invited to speak? Why are they being passed over by competitors?

It’s especially hard to swallow if you were once known as a pioneer but now someone else is taking the industry limelight. Nobody seems to remember – let alone respect – you were the first.

These same people are often uncomfortable building a stage for themselves (no grandstanding right?) and don’t want to use social or digital media (they’re a waste of time, right?). Somehow the market is meant to just know of your leadership and brilliance. But it doesn’t.

When Mangos asked Adam Goodes how he achieved his turn around, Goodes answered with certainty, “I had to find my voice and learn how to have an opinion.”

As my work is based on helping people find their voice and guiding them to opinions, I was fascinated to hear this. At question time, I asked him to elaborate on that aspect of his leadership journey. “The Bloods values were clear”, he said, pointing to the gallery wall behind him, as if the Sydney Swans’ Bloods values were painted right there. The successful Bloods team culture emerged at this same time in Goodes’ career.

He said it was about the sense of belonging to this club, knowing those values, and acting and speaking to them. He said he had to be courageous. “Mine might not have been the best or only opinion, but I learned to speak up”.

This week one of my business clients Richard Boele spoke at an event in the House of Lords, Westminster. The subject was business and human rights, a cause he has advocated for over twenty years. Gradually, he has been affecting global change on human rights and the social impact of business whilst running his own sustainability and auditing business, now known as KPMG Banarra. A month ago at the Dangerous & Brilliant Writers’ Retreat, I interviewed him about the personal journey of using his voice and expressing strong opinions. He said, “I just had to keep giving myself permission.”

Adam Goodes was just twenty-two when he discovered this. Since, he’s twice received the most honourable award of his sport, is referred to as the greatest Swan ever, been an Australian of the Year and is a respected spokesperson and ambassador on anti-racism, reducing violence against women and Indigenous education.

Leadership goes hand in hand with voice and opinion. I’m a bit of a fair weather football fan, but an ever-proud mentor and supporter of business owners wanting to take on leadership roles and cultivate a courageous voice. On my recent retreat, I stood with a business owner as she discovered her Dangerous Voice, “That’s my big voice”, she said. It was a moving moment for both of us. Her voice is already transforming her industry and beyond.

What a blessing for this country that Adam Goodes found his voice and the courage to have an opinion.

Is the world in need of yours?

Ready to discover your Dangerous Voice and opinions?

To attend the upcoming Dangerous Blogging Workshops (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) or three day residential program Dangerous & Brilliant Writers’ Retreat (May 24-27)

(Photo of John Mangos and Adam Goodes by Francesca Lever. Thank you Shadforth Financial Group for the invitation and hospitality.)