As my wife and I raised our children we had many debates about what and when to tell them certain things about life. When do we tell them about Santa Clause? When was the best time to explain the birds and the bees? When was it ok to let them go see a PG-13 movie that contained heavy references to sex, alcohol or drugs? (I threw in the last one, because while this was a no-brainer for us, we just saw several families with very young children at the movies watching “Just Go With It.”) While we all have different answers to these questions, it is obvious that we don’t tell our kids everything, until they are ready.
I believe in honesty and integrity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re obligated as leaders to tell people everything we know, all the time. There seems to be a growing movement out there that seems to believe that leaders are obligated to be completely transparent. As a leader… don’t fall into this trap.
As a leader, people are looking to you for leadership. They want you to get something done and are following you for a reason. They may like the fact that you “keep them in the know”, but that is not why they are following you. They follow you because they believe that you will get results. Getting results requires that you manage what people know and it would be unwise to tell everyone, everything, as you go about your business. In fact, it would be downright irresponsible.
During my career, I have encountered a few individuals who liked to wear their heart on their sleeves. They let everyone know what was on their mind and went to great lengths to ensure that people understood how they “felt.” I am sorry to say that this is emotionally immature. Leaders need to control their emotions. They also need to be able to control the flow of information to others.
I was chatting with the President of a small consulting firm the other night at dinner, and he said one of the hardest things about being President, was that he couldn’t discuss some of the problems he was pondering with his staff. He knew that there were certain things that he couldn’t share, until the time was right. If his staff saw him struggle with choosing a business strategy, they would begin to wonder why. They may worry about things that aren’t going to happen. They may lose confidence in him as a leader. He told me that being President… was lonely, and he is absolutely right.
Be very thoughtful about what you communicate and how you communicate it. The best leaders, are great communicators, and… they don’t tell you everything, they just tell you what you need to know.
All the best!
All the time!
- We Need People Who Can Lead Regardless Of Their Title (leadchangegroup.com)
- 10 Things Leaders Can Do To Make A Better World (leadchangegroup.com)