I have the tremendous blessing of interviewing, coaching and learning from leaders of all ages and stages of life. My podcast, Leaders on Leadership, unpacks what it takes to pay the price of leadership. In our dialogue, I realize certain things happen to all of us. And I'm not just talking about the tough calls or long days and poor performers; I'm talking about backfires.
The type of leaders that I hang with are courageous. They have a keen sense of discernment, a compulsion to speak the truth professionally, and a sense of service over self. So why do these brave point people get vilified, sniped at, or even railroaded out of the very entity they are trying to help?
I’ll tell you why. First, leaders have a tough time owning up to the fact that all is not perfect on their ship. Problems? Not us! When I searched for an entity to interview as part of my doctoral research on an organizational crisis, I reached out to hundreds of leaders! Do you know how many admitted they had experienced a situation and would allow me to come in and interview those who went through with it? One! Now I know that's all it takes; however, it was a real eye-opener that most leaders do not like to take a long, hard look at what is going on in their organizations. Instead, they'd adopt a "storms over, nothing to worry about now" mentality. The problem with this fantasy is that the storms are never over.
One of the brilliant leaders I am coaching in my SPARK Singularity Deep Dive Course lamented that perhaps he shouldn't stick his neck out so much as the new guy in response to raised hackles of the existing group of non-performers on the payroll. But, unfortunately, people who speak the truth get those who don't want to hear it riled up, even those who hired them to say it! Look at the first martyr in the New Testament, Stephen, who got himself stoned in the middle of his first sermon for delivering a point-by-point rendering of the Old Testament and how it related to Jesus’ work through his death and resurrection.
And another one of my fellow leaders recounted how he was appointed to lead a church and began dealing with some issues that needed addressing. His actions caused a great deal of division and heartache for my friend, a new pastor, so he considered resigning. We've all been there. But then he went to Charlie "Tremendous" Jones bookstore, where he encountered my father. My father didn't give him a poor baby sympathy hug and commiserate with tandem thumb sucking; instead, he smacked him over the head and said, "What's this I hear about your wanting to quit?"
Yikes! That is the one thing you never, ever, ever said to my father, "I quit." He then said to my friend, "Pastor leaves, problems stay; pastor stays, problems leave." You can listen to the podcast to hear how it all turned out, but needless to say, my friend didn't let the rats run him off the ship and returned to clean house and fulfill God’s purpose for calling him there.
Now leaders also know that there is a time when the ship is going down, and no amount of standing your ground will right it. I interviewed another tremendous leader last week, and we talked about vision. She said she never really thought of herself as a visionary but rather someone who could take the leader's vision and see it into the future. That meant that she would adopt a futuristic, pragmatic, and contrarian point of view that got her fellow board members irked. Lastly, she had the most brilliant ability to see both sides of any issue and articulate them in a beautifully balanced way. She eventually came off that board because they were not so enamored with her unique gifts.
So, my dear leaders, rejoice that you are gifted the vision to spot the truth, and the backbone, the cajones, and the chutzpah to speak it. Very few have this quality and strength of character, and it will get you in a world of trouble from the masses who are threatened by it. But isn't that what's life's about? We all have to be abandoned to something; otherwise, we're nothing. So why not let it be pure and selfless service and unapologetic leadership. As leaders, we may be unsure about how certain things may work out if we open our mouths, but we are never in doubt that the words rise from our convictions. So don’t second guess yourself. How are you wrong if it comes from your desire make things right.
Keep fighting the good fight and paying the price for doing it right!