One of the ways to deeply understand what leadership is, is to explore where leadership happens. As much as it starts with self, leadership does not happen in the self-isolation. It is very much the process of growing together in relationship with others, which requires radical connection from everyone.
To explain what our leadership as radical connection means, let me start by describing what our connection usually looks like in reality. We usually respond to each other by reacting at each other. We react at what other people are, do, or think; we react at what they bring. Our instant reaction is not to create from what others bring, but rather to vote if we agree with it or we don’t. If we, therefore, see them as adequate or inadequate. As much as I wish to normalise this as our human behaviour, it needs to be said that such approach makes us simply judgemental.
Contrary to that, leadership as radical connection means to always look for the wisdom in another human being, the impact of which makes us both wiser.
Looking for this wisdom is the mindset that translates in reality through steps that are often uncomfortable. Here’s one of those challenges: rather than well-designed feedback, offer simple human hard-loving truth to those you lead.
Leaders share hard-loving truth when they truly care about those they lead. They do it because they undoubtedly believe in the potential of others and they wish to encourage them to grow to its level. That makes hard-loving truth a conversation grounded in radical connection rather than a harsh criticism. It often times comes together with discomfort and in the form of a tough conversation. Your willingness and ability to share hard-loving truth and have tough conversations with those you lead defines your leadership.
In many corporate cultures tough conversations are avoided because people do not feel enough safety in their workplace to be able to have them. This is where the paradox occurs: the less tough conversations there are, the less safety there is in the workplace. Hard-loving truth in all its discomfort is in fact a way of increasing safety among those leading and being led. Readiness to bring it despite of discomfort assures everyone that no topic will be avoided and that automatically creates safety.
Listening to lots of leaders’ stories in my work, I’ve realised that leaders very often choose silence or criticism over hard-loving truth. Not saying anything or simply criticising seems to be less risky than getting into uncomfortable conversation.
For me that always poses a question of caring. I believe it is deep care about the other person that have us face the risk and discomfort of the uncomfortable conversation in which we share hard-loving truth. The thing is, in anything that feels risky something more important has to prevail so that we would readily take the risk.
Therefore, if we as leaders are not brining the hard-loving truth to others, most of the times it’s not because we cannot face the risk of it, but because we do not care enough about the one who needs to hear it.
I’ll leave you with an inquiry: who do you as a leader care enough about to share hard-loving truth with?