Honesty in Leadership
I recently attended a servant leadership seminar led by Jim Hunter, author of The Servant.
It was an event funded by my mentor Dave Skogen, and offered free to the community—an opportunity I could not pass up, especially because Dave extended the invite! I think there were around 800 people at Viterbo University for the seminar that day, all eager to hear Jim speak.
Jim had some amazing knowledge to share about leadership, as I knew he would. But there was one highlight that really hit home for me and has stuck in my mind since that day.
It was about honesty.
Jim first talked about the importance of honesty as a virtue and character trait for leadership; he asked us if we agreed that honesty was important and if we considered ourselves to be honest people. Pretty much everyone in the room raised their hands and nodded. Then he put a different spin on it.
He said, in so many words, that if there are issues in your business, relationships or family, and you don’t address them, you are not being honest. You’re being deceitful. Plain and simple. You’re not being honest if you’re letting problems occur without also thinking and acting on solutions; without addressing those needs and holding yourself—or others—accountable.
I paused after I heard this. Like punch-in-the-gut paused.
I realized that if I’m honest, I’m not actually being honest.
I recognized in that moment that although my default sweet spot is to be in the cheerleader role at my business, but I can only really BE in that role if I commit to accountability as well. I can still cast the vision and lead us to our goals—but only if I’m willing to be honest about the places where we miss the mark and address them.
Every business has problems, issues, breakdowns and challenges. We’d be kidding ourselves to think otherwise! But as Jim reminded me, being honest about our problems is a necessary part of being a leader. We want to be solving better problems faster by being honest about what needs to be achieved.
So I’m encouraging you to do exactly what I’m planning to do now:
Take those problem-solving opportunities that might be overdue, take responsibility, and hold the right people accountable in those areas of the business. Explain, kindly, that to make progress, those gaps have to close. Ask for solutions and ideas too. I like to tell my people that I’m all ears in ALL CAPS! We can be fighting better battles and solving better problems, if we move the biggest rocks in front of us first.
Not only does this approach improve your leadership, according to Jim, it opens the door for more communication. It models for your team what real honesty looks like. And it brings your business closer to its goals.
Jim’s talk was something I needed to hear, and now I hope it’s something YOU needed to hear too. If you think about it, honesty has much more depth to it than what meets the eye, and this is a perfect example of that. So be honest with yourself. Be honest with your people. Don’t be afraid to address a problem; be empowered instead. Open up and own it … and keep moving forward!