It is not difficult to conceive of appreciating followers who find new ways to support their
Imagine for a moment that you as a leader are
Now imagine for a moment that they admire you so much that they will not tell you anything negative, including these points:
misspelledthe nameof your most important client or contributorin a letter that is about to be mailed.
You are unknowingly violating a key cultural norm of an international VIP you are hosting.
You are about to sign off on the financial statement of the company when they know there is a serious flaw in it that could land you in legal trouble.
Any of these examples sound ludicrous and irresponsible of the people
But what about the following examples? If you were the head of an organization or department, would you really want staff to tell you what they are thinking in the following instances?
You are so forceful and intellectually intimidating at meetings that no one wants to risk embarrassment by raising questions or alternate ideas for consideration.
You are losing the trust of key staff and board
membersbecause you seem more interested in your compensation package than in the welfare of the organization.
You are pushing through more mergers and acquisitions than the organization can assimilate productively, and this is endangering the company’s viability.
The first set of examples would clearly save you from embarrassment, or
Yet, from an organizational point of view, it is at least as important that you be told the second set of observations as the first. These perceptions are likely to have more long-
The first thing you must do is to examine your own beliefs about authority and what is appropriate to say to those in authority and what is not. You may have had role models, either when growing up or early in your career, who did not
Next, reflect on your
Now imagine if you respond in this quite normal human way to a subordinate who has the courage to raise a sensitive matter with you. Because of the position of authority and power that you occupy, if you react defensively, you are
A requisite of good leadership is to override naturally defensive feelings, statements, and behaviors and display
genuineinterest in what sources of critical feedback are telling you.
The need to develop this capacity is often unrecognized or given insufficient importance. It is not easy to do. Initially, it may require considerable self-discipline, but, with practice, even those who find this
Finally, you have to demonstrate responsiveness to feedback. There is no point in staff taking risks to give you critical feedback on sensitive issues if they never see a return on the risk. You may or may not accept or act on the feedback, but you need to
I’ve thought about what you said the other day, and I’m not going to act on it for the following reasons. . . . But I appreciate your bringing the matter to my attention, and I hope you’ll do so again if it still seems to be a problem.
I was pretty skeptical about what you said the other day, but, on reflection, I realized that you might be right, so I’m giving it further consideration.
I’ve thought about what you said, and here are the actions I’ve taken. . . . I know it’s not everything you thought I should do, but I want you to know that I took what you said seriously.
heardwhat you said the other day, and I’m going to try to make the changes you suggested. I probably won’t do it perfectly, but I want you to know I’m working on it.
I realize the seriousness of the discussion we had the other day, and I’ve taken five major steps to address the issue. Please give them a few weeks to take effect, and then let me know whether you start to see changes or not.
A few leaders are naturally good about creating a