Some believe that leaders should remain somewhat distanced from direct reports. In their view, if leaders reveal too much about themselves, they risk being seen as too close with their employees and therefore set themselves up to be taken advantage of. Many believe that if an employee sees a leader’s “inner side” it is a sign of weakness. This perspective reflects one of many myths about leadership and can undermine a leader’s effectiveness.
Being open can be a strength. An emerging organizational leader, Tina, recently shared a conversation she had with a senior leader, Don. Tina had asked Don about how he made complex decisions. Don was very open and told her that sometimes he “gets it wrong.” He related a situation where he “blew” a decision with his team by ignoring their collective recommendation and acting on his own. Don realized, too late, that he had made a mistake in choosing to bypass his team’s recommendation. It had completely disengaged his staff. He asked Tina how she would suggest he repair his compromised relationships with the team. Tina was surprised when Don turned to her in such an honest way and shared his mistakes so openly. Being a much less experienced employee, she felt valued and respected because he sought her input. She admired him all the more because of that interaction.
When leaders reveal their imperfections and challenges, their openness has a positive impact. It builds trust, furthers the relationship, and encourages others to be open and comfortable talking about their mistakes and challenges– rather than hiding them. It also fosters a climate of learning rather than blaming.
How open are you with your people?
Do you share your thinking with your direct reports?
Have you ever revealed a mistake you have made?
By changing your perception about openness you can strengthen your effectiveness as a leader. Think about the possibilities and impact you will have if you are more open and consider how your attitude might enhance your team’s effectiveness.