In my previous article, I wrote about a vital aspect of leadership: knowing the individuals forming the team, in order to help them discover and express their potential, and make the team efficient.
Now that you know your team, the next question is: how well do you know yourself? And can you identify your own strengths and weaknesses?
And more importantly, once you have figured out your weaknesses, are you able to stop hiding them?
The Myth of the Flawless Leader
I have seen this around, a lot: people pretending to always have the answer to everything.
Some people even take the practice to the next level. Let me tell you a story
A dear friend of mine does not like to ever appear unprepared, on any possible notion. So he uses his massive knowledge in conjunction with his intuition to appear like he always knows better than anyone. Because if he does so, he believes, he will be more respected.
And that approach probably works, sometimes, with people that seldom cross his path – people who are close to him know him well and don’t care too much – but it contributes to creating an aura of mistrust around him, at times.
Why is that? Because people know that no one is perfect. Although some people need idols to venerate, human beings find it hard to believe in human perfection; they feel there is something hidden, something they can’t grasp.
Something he is not telling. Something he is not showing.
From Honesty comes Trust
OK, honesty is not the only component of trust.
There is competence, too: there is little point in being honest for those who never have an answer or useful insights about anything.
There is trust itself: not many will trust those who don’t trust anyone.
But honesty goes a long way in building a good rapport with other creatures.
So when, why, and how can you be honest as a lead? Here are some suggestions of things you should not hide.
1 – Lack of competence
Like I wrote earlier in this very post, leaders need to be competent: they need to be able to follow any work-related conversation within their teams.
But to know everything about every subject is an unrealistic expectation.
The beautiful aspect of working in teams comes from counting on each other’s different skillsets.
The team leader is exactly like other team members: they have their own areas of expertise where they are strongly proficient while in other areas where they may only have a higher-level understanding. And that is fine.
Poor leaders like to “reign in hell”: they prefer to be the smartest person in the room, setting themselves up for miserable failure.
Good leaders want to “serve in heaven”: they surround themselves with capable people with different skill sets so they can listen and learn a lot.
Good leaders admit it when they are not the most knowledgeable persons on a specific subject, and involve their collaborators before making a decision.
2 – Mistakes
Poor leaders think they need to conceal their failures; they won’t admit when they did or said something wrong. They don’t say “sorry”.
Good leaders hold themselves accountable for their actions and their words instead. They know they can be wrong and they say sorry when it’s necessary.
3 – Vulnerability
Poor leaders believe they need to always appear 100% mentally and physically healthy, full-tank. But that is not human, either, just like absolute knowledge.
If they are facing challenges, they let their team members know; they will be happy to support someone who has always been ready to support them through adversities.
There is probably one real caveat I can think of.
All of the above works well in healthy, non-toxic work environments.
If you are surrounded by people you trust, then honesty goes a long way in building a productive long-term rapport.
If you are instead working in a company/division populated by wolves that are only waiting for your next failure to take over, then you need to be a bit more careful with what you expose and how.