Have you ever watched American Idol? There is always that part in the beginning when they have the auditions, and there is that awful singer who really believes they can sing, but we all know that they can’t. It feels as if I’m watching a train wreck. I even get to the point where I’m embarrassed for them. Every time I see someone like that I ask myself the same question, “Do they not have anyone who loves them enough to tell them the truth?”
The truth is a powerful gift. One of the places where I feel tension as a leader is being able to hear the truth. Leaders, inherently, are placed on a pedestal. It doesn’t happen on purpose, but the bigger the organization the more removed the leader tends to be.
The best leaders are the ones who fight against that situation. They’re the ones who find a way to be in the trenches and see the organization they are leading from one of their follower’s perspective. As a leader, I am learning that the more that I can humble myself the better off I’ll be, and the more that I can admit my mistakes the more likely I am to retain the loyalty of the organization. People don’t want a perfect leader; they just want an honest one.
Here is where this gets tricky: I can’t lead myself. Well, I can’t lead myself honestly. My bias towards the guy staring back at me in the mirror is always going to be there. Maybe there are other leaders who have mastered this trait, but for me, the guy in the mirror will always have some bias attached to him (because I just like that guy so much!).
I think that is why leaders need people in their lives who can speak the truth. When I say that, I’m not talking about the kind of truth that happens when someone is ticked off because of a decision that was made. That truth is easy to come by. I’m talking about the kind of truth that is earned through trust and a loving relationship.
The reality for me is that I don’t care what you have to say about my life till I know how much you care about my heart.
The trick is finding someone who is willing to put in the work to get to know you, then through that process to trust you, and then eventually speak the truth to you. That way, when I’m doing something stupid (which will ALWAYS happen) I will have someone in my corner who loves me enough to tell me to stop.
The scariest people in the world are the ones who are so isolated that no one can tell them the truth. So, the question then becomes: How do I know if I am one of them? How do I know if someone loves me enough to tell me exactly what I need to hear?
I think the only way to answer that question is with some honest self-reflection:
To whom have I given permission to speak honestly about my life?
And, am I close enough with someone to speak honestly about theirs?
So, whom do you have to speak the truth about your life, and are you listening to them?