Sunday, 17 June 2012
It's easier to read a book once it's been opened!
Today’s inspirational leaders are both transparent and vulnerable. Neither of these qualities is evidence of weakness or a lack of competence; rather they should be viewed as signs of strength.
The complexities of business, indeed the complexities of life, are increasing daily. The amount of information that we create is overwhelming and trying to sift through the data to determine what is meaningful and what is simply ‘information traffic’ is an imposing and time-consuming task. Leaders need to have the strength of character to acknowledge these facts. And then they must demonstrate the vulnerability to ask for help.
This may come in the form of delegation of responsibility that was outlined previously. But here I am addressing the tsunami that can come up unexpectedly and simply swamp an individual, regardless of how accomplished and experienced they may be.
A healthy and properly functioning team is always ready to breach the gap. This response, rather than being critical of the leader, is, in fact, an affirmation of their leader. The willingness to assist demonstrates alignment with their leader and the goals.
Where vulnerability is hidden, so is trust. Employees today know all too well the scope of challenges that face every leader. They may not know specifics, but generally speaking, we are dealing with a workforce that is better educated, plugged into the information streams and acutely aware of the difficult competitive landscape that faces almost every business. For a leader today to simply internalize or rationalize the issues for fear that they are seen as being unable to cope is an unrealistic and dangerous response.
The strength of character is demonstrated not by the ‘knowing’ but in the ‘asking’.
I have coupled vulnerability with transparency very deliberately. Because many senior leaders continue to operate in an environment that does not properly acknowledge the impact and influence of social media.
Can you say ‘Facebook’ or ‘YouTube’?
There was a time, less than a decade ago, in which the disingenuous leader was able to operate in a cloaked manner. But today we have an internet based communications launching pad that distributes information with an immediacy, a scope and a frankness that is unparalleled in history.
Please note that the word ‘information’ is used advisedly. I did not use the word ‘facts’ because often facts get in the way of a good story. And most users of these social networks are too lazy to confirm anything.
Review chapter 2 and the discussion on a higher level of accountability again as you consider this aspect of transparency.
In the inspirational leadership equation I stated that the goal or purpose must be noble. And by noble I said it must be legal, ethical, moral and achievable.
If there is any abuse of this equation, you can be confident that some social media tool will expose it. Indeed some sites have that specific mandate. Wikileaks.com has gained great exposure doing just that.
A smart phone today acts as a video camera, editor, and transmitter all at once. History unfolds as a live event and is streamed everywhere. The answer to the implied question then is simple. A leader cannot lead inspirationally unless they are committed to the goals of transparency and vulnerability. Those that are committed to this principle have nothing to be concerned about. Those who cannot stand the light of transparency ought to step out of the glare. There is no third choice.