01 Apr '10
Ways to Minimize our Liabilities
Leaders who build healthy teams of highly competent individuals use those teams to help alleviate their own liabilities. Many of the issues we face have to do with personnel, relationships and complex problems. Even though I have a strong sense of direction and a great deal of experience in dealing with organizational issues, I know that council from a group of wise individuals is far better than dealing with the issue by myself where my own perspective can easily get in the way of the best solution.
I am convinced that the wisdom of others often prevents our liabilities and our limited perspective from compromising our decisions and responses. When faced with a difficult decision or situation, I never respond without significant dialogue with trusted colleagues whose wisdom and perspective I trust and they have prevented me from making stupid calls in any number of instances. There is simply too much at stake for me to make unilateral decisions in tough spots. And, it is often hard to separate out our own emotions and issues from what is best organizationally.
Bringing in trusted colleagues into tough decisions is also a check against any tendency to lead autocratically or to deal with problematic personnel in unfair or harsh ways. Even as the senior leader of the organization I lead, I have accountability in my leadership and decisions through the involvement of other senior leaders. In fact, I never make any major directional decision without the assent and council of my senior team. Again, this becomes a check against human tendencies to lead out of personal preferences, arrogance, pride or the limited perspective any one of us has by ourselves. It literally can save us from ourselves!
Another hedge against our shadow side getting us into trouble in tough decisions is to resist the temptation to respond quickly. Quick decisions often come out of emotion and emotion is often influenced more by our shadow side than wisdom or our strengths. Difficult decisions and difficult people often stir anxiety in us. The anxiety makes us feel as if we need to do something now, when in reality waiting, thinking and getting counsel is often far wiser. In addition, anxiety often causes us to react emotionally when what is needed is a wise, reasoned, non-emotional response. How many of us have sent an emotional email in the heat of the moment that we wish we had been able to recall?
Emotional responses to people and situations can be a significant opportunity for our shadow side to become a liability. In the heat of emotion we do and say things that are not filtered by wisdom and even if we have reason to be angry we contribute to the problem and lose the high ground of leadership.
Time is our ally in most difficult decisions. It gives us time to pray, to evaluate options, seek counsel and think more clearly. The temptation to act quickly is really a temptation to act out of emotion rather than out of wisdom. Emotion and wisdom are not always compatible in leadership. I have a practice that I will not act before I have agreement with a trusted colleague or colleagues that the time is right and the approach is wise. The knottier the problem, the longer I will usually wait unless there is an overwhelming reason to act quickly.
The wisdom of the Holy Spirit is critical to keeping our dark side from compromising our leadership. One of the reasons that time is an ally in hard decisions is that it gives us time to pray, to think, and to allow the Holy Spirit to give us a divine perspective that transcends human understanding. I am constantly amazed at how solutions come to mind as I think, pray, dialogue with colleagues and allow God the time and opportunity to give me perspective that is critical to doing the right thing and avoiding my own liabilities, human perspective or shadow side.
One of the traps that good leaders fall into is to start to believe that because they have had leadership success that they are always capable of making the right decisions. Our very success can lead to decisions that are unwise because we trust our own leadership instincts and choose not to seek council or take the time for prayer and evaluation. In fact, the more success we have as leaders the more cautious we ought to be not to believe our own press, to remain humble leaders who seek wise council and take the time for prayerful consideration. Success can lead either to greater leadership wisdom or to the dark side of hubris. We choose the path by how we lead.