“Transparency is the antidote to hypocrisy.” – Britt Merrick, Godspeed: Making Christ’s Mission Your Own
Courage is an essential element of leadership; without courage you will never be able to stand when everyone else is sitting. Courage requires transparency and humility. Transparency requires you to be open about who you are and what you are doing. Humility requires you to be open about your limitations and knowledge.
If you want to lead people you first need to explain the mission. We used to have maps, now we have apps to give us directions, neither will do you any good if you do not know where you are going. Take the time to explain to those you lead what the mission is, what you are trying to accomplish. I have found that once someone understands the mission, I can trust them to use their skills to accomplish it.
Involve Others in Planning and Decision Making
What could be better than explaining all your decisions and planning? How about involving your team in the process? This kind of transparency not only builds trust, but you may find many more ways to accomplish your goal with easier buy in from others. This will take a humble leader but will also teach others humility as well.
Acknowledging mistakes takes real strength. This will make you a better leader and a great teacher also. All the successful people you know have failed at things, sometimes many things. Acknowledging your mistakes and working through them will not only make you better and more open but the lessons learned by others will be unimaginable. We all learn from mistakes, but many people will not try for fear of failure. Worse than not trying is that many will try to hide mistakes. What we do know is many great accomplishments come from taking chances. Teach people that making mistakes and acknowledging them is ok. If people know that it is ok to make a mistake, you will build trust while encouraging growth and initiative.
Another great application of this principle is used during debriefs or reviews of past situations. As a leader, start the session off with your errors. People will be more open to owning up and improving when they see you being transparent and honest.
Questions Asked and Answered
Transparency and humility will allow you to be approachable. Be willing to answer questions from your team on almost any subject. A great enemy in most environments is gossip. People are often searching for information and when they don’t get it, they fill in the blanks with worries, concerns or rumors. Keeping secrets from your people is bad business. Sometimes, with the volume of projects you may be juggling, the lack of communication could be accidental. If your team knows you are open to inquiry, they will not be afraid to ask.
Hopefully your willingness to answer questions will set a good example for your people. With different values and personalities, you may have to seek information and input from some. You must take the initiative to ask questions and seek input from every team member. Leading often means going to them and not waiting for them to come to you.
Avoid Hidden Agendas
Be clear about what is really happening. Don’t think you need to protect people from bad news. People not only deserve the truth but treating them like adults will get them to act like it. Your agenda and purpose should always be clearly defined.
It takes real courage to have difficult conversations. Unfortunately, the desire to be liked prevents people from communicating uncomfortable information but this is not about you. The problem lies with our uncomfortableness in our approach to these conversations. If you truly want what is best for the people you are leading, allowing them to continue doing the wrong things means they may never improve or worse. This is a matter of loving the person you must lead. If you have a big booger hanging out of your nose, your friends will laugh at you and not tell you. Your mom will tell you because she wants what is best for you. If it were you, would you want to know the truth? Care enough to have the courageous conversations and then work on addressing how improvement can begin.
Courage can be contagious. Our Founding Fathers did not have the majority support in the founding of America, but they were courageous. A line from “Braveheart” has William Wallace addressing the king in a weak moment, Wallace states, “People don’t follow titles, they follow courage.” Develop your courage and others will follow.
Editor’s Note: This is the 6th Article in the “Creating Courage” series by Chief Tim Barfield. It is the best series of articles on this profession that you will read. We highly recommend the other articles in the series that we have listed below: