“What can I do better?”
I asked one of my direct reports that question as I was sitting in my office during one of our regular weekly meetings. He was one of the company’s top performers and one of my closest friends in the building.
His answer was revealing. “I think it would be helpful if you would give more direction in meetings. ” When I asked him for some clarity, he kindly elaborated. “Sometimes you leave us wondering what we should do when maybe you could be more direct.”
His criticism of me rang true. And I knew he was right.
My problem was cowardice rooted in personal insecurity. And personal insecurity prevents effective leadership. Fear of loss of relational acceptance can cripple an otherwise excellent leader. When this cowardice gets out of balance, leadership suffers — simply because the manager wants to be liked.
This cowardice fails to take into account that people thrive when they have clarity. A good leader will recognize that wise and thoughtful direction builds up the organization. It increases productivity and lifts team morale.
The wise king who wrote Proverbs wanted that same clarity for his son, so he told him to get wisdom. “Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. If you lie down, you will not be afraid.” (Proverbs 3:23-24) The wise king knew the upside down business idea: Clear direction gives security and eliminates fear.
In an effort to be the guy people liked, I was creating fear and insecurity in the team. Had I not asked, the team’s fear and insecurity could have transformed into a self-fulfilling prophecy — they could rightly blame and dislike their manager.
Be courageous. Your truthfulness and kindness will guide your team into greater success. And your team will love you for it.