In this, part three of our four-part series on Gifts Leaders Have to Give, we turn to two more valuable gifts: support and honesty.
Having a leader you know supports you and can be relied upon to back you up, can be such a blessing. Being the kind of leader who supports his/her people both in word and in deed is giving them something truly special. Sometimes those we lead need to know we have their backs, maybe when they are faced with a tough situation or when they are dealing with a tough personality. Giving support and backing to our people is a way of building their confidence; they know they are not alone. It also builds loyalty. The more you support your people, the more likely they are to support and back you up in return. It becomes a cycle of supporting one another.
One of the keys to giving support to people we lead is that our words and our actions must be consistent with one another. That includes both publicly and privately. We cannot say publicly we support someone and then behind closed doors demean or abandon them. If we say we are going to support them, we need to follow through with our actions and do so.
Another key to success here is to provide support in the right ways. Some people merit support because they are skilled, heavily experienced or are subject matter experts in a given area. Others you may support because of their loyalty to the organization and its values. The context may change how we offer support, but our people need to know they are going to have it when it counts.
Closely related to support is the gift of honesty. This can be a tricky gift, because sometimes honesty feels more like being blunt or just plain hurtful. Sometimes, though, the most supportive thing we can do is to speak honestly with those we lead and give them feedback no one else might be willing to give.
The people we lead are smart people. If things are not going well, they often know it and are waiting to see if their leader will acknowledge missteps and do something about it. There may also be times when those we lead sense that we as leaders are out of our depth or don’t know what we should do. It’s in times like these that it might be best to openly tell our people of our own shortcomings. In many ways, speaking honestly with them is a way of showing respect as well.
One key to success in the area of giving the gift of honesty is to be clear on what motivates the honesty. Hurting, cutting someone down, or trying to make yourself look better by being critical of another is not helpful honesty. Honesty is about genuinely trying to realize the best outcomes for people and projects. It is driven by love, compassion, professionalism, and a sense of stewardship in leading.
A second key is to be consistently honest. One of the sayings that has crept in to common use in recent years is “I am going to be honest with you . . . “ That phrase is curious because it implies there are times that person has not been honest. This is not a good trait for a leader. Yes, there may be times when it would be inappropriate for you to share certain information with certain people, but that does not mean you need to be dishonest in the process. As a leader, our people need to know that they can count on us to speak honestly with them at all times.
As you look around at your team, who needs a reminder this week that they have your support and backing? Who needs to experience it first-hand in word and in deed from you? Is there someone you lead who needs a little honest conversation with you? Is there something you can do to reinforce that they can count on you to be honest with them? Giving these gifts, while not easy at times, is an investment in your people that will pay dividends over time.