Good afternoon dear reader & welcome to my world for another week. Leadership is hard. I rank it up there with pain, parenting, & public speaking as one of those things in life we never fully master; but only hope to keep learning over a lifetime.
Dan Allender puts it well: “If you are a leader, you are in the battle of your life.”
Anyone who has navigated the turbulent waters of leadership probably knows what he means. The challenges & complexities are enormous. Making tough decisions, weathering criticism, helping others re-envision the future, taking risks, speaking consistently with tact & wisdom, gathering broad-based support, working shrewdly with different personalities ~ it can often feel like steering the boat while white-water rafting.
I have learned several lessons over the years & I am continually learning. In fact I have been reminded of a few this last week; & probably will have to learn again. Here a just a few examples from my journey this week:
Give correctives personally, graciously & sparingly. My father once said to me: “You cannot always be nice.” This is true of all leadership. You have to correct people. When you do not regretfully, dysfunction begins to fester.
Nonetheless, correcting others is one of the most difficult responsibilities in leadership. It takes wisdom to find the right balance of truth & grace. I often err in one direction or the other, but I have discovered some guiding principles which I have found assist me.
For example, to create an overall environment & tone of warmth, correcting someone over email may be easier, but it is far less helpful. Nuances & subtleties typically come out in person & is lost in writing; your tone will likely be more gentle & fair in person, plus it is easier for the other person to receive the correction well.
- Give correctives in person.
- Frame correctives in the context of encouragements.
- Take care the overall tone of your leadership is positive rather than corrective.
I have found one of the most effective habits of good leadership is to celebrate success stories. For instance, when a person faithfully responds & gives of themselves, ask them to share experiences with the rest of a team or group. Or highlight a service publicly in order to help appreciate those values being shown.
The benefits of celebrating success stories are many. It affirms & honours a person. It encourages & motivates others who are working in similar ways. It reinforces the message of: “it is a team effort” & the leaders are not more important than the members. It spreads out authority. And it enhances the fellowship & trust of the whole group.
People do not like unpleasant surprises. We know this in principle ~ but how easy it is to forget in practice! We rarely over-communicate, but frequently under-communicate. It is almost instinctive, when we are up in the cockpit flying the plane, to forget to give regular updates to the passengers. But a well-timed “heads up” can do wonders for maintaining harmony & trust throughout the group.
Few things zap morale so rapidly when done poorly, or build morale so powerfully when done well, as meetings. Over time meetings naturally drift from their official purpose into the whims of the most vocal attendees, so an effective leader must ruthlessly keep them on target. Jacqueline Rowarth in the National Business review last week referred to Peter Drucker & his statement: “you can do real work, or you can go to meetings…”
Finally, in these areas & others, our ultimate objective for effective leadership should be one of listening & of service & of humility. I am certainly pleased for the lessons I have been reminded of again this week, long may the learning continue.
Thank you for taking the time to be with me once again. I hope my journey may again encourage you also. This is Kenn Butler in Paradise, Nelson, with my best wishes for your week ahead.