Be Honest. Be open. Be fearless. Be humble. Be real.
The Human Leader
Over 5 posts, we explore the “Be” statements that comprise the core values of The Human Leader.
Today we look at Be Open.
Be Open is Be Honest’s constant companion. As I wrote in the previous post, we must be honest to be a fully effective Human Leader, both externally and internally. Yet, I can’t think of one leader I work with who finds it easier to be honest internally more than externally. I’m sure there are some, however it is so much easier to see all the things outside of ourselves that we need to “shine the light of truth” upon. No surprise there really. And frankly, a leader’s ability to see those type of challenges can be the reason he or she rises to a position of leadership in the first place. Or, in the case of entrepreneurs, it is often the reason they start their own venture. They see something that could be improved, but can’t change it from within their current situation. So they decide to strike out on their own.
Like Be Honest, Be Open also has external and internal aspects. So what does it mean for a Human Leader to be open?
Externally, Human Leaders are open to new ideas, opportunities and experiences because, of course, an important characteristic of any leader is the ability to evaluate and make informed decisions. New ideas are analyzed carefully and quickly. A strong leader takes measured risks to grow the business, branch into related product or service lines, and so forth. The leader sails the narrow waters between the “Scylla” of gathering too little information, thus making a poor decision, and the “Charybdis” of over analysis, thus missing the opportunity.
To be frank, you can be considered an excellent leader focusing solely on external openness. In fact, there are many who believe that is the only skillset needed. While I in no way deny the vital importance of this kind of openness, I am convinced that the best leaders consistently practice a different kind of openness. What I term internal openness (I should also mention that you can be a leader with no openness, but not a Human Leader).
Leaders with internal openness understand who they are. They know their leadership style. They may have taken Strength Finders, 360 degree evaluations, and worked on their emotional IQ (or EQ). They may take personality tests, (typically Myers Briggs), or perhaps even conative assessments (Kolbe), or other assessment instruments designed to help discover who they are and how they lead.
These types of assessments are extremely valuable and I heartily endorse them. They can absolutely take a leader to higher levels of leadership. As an aside, one of my most recent discoveries is the Kolbe test. It is a fascinating look at how we approach life and work with a very different focus than most personality tests. A friend of mine, Tim Francis, shared this with me and it is uncanny how accurate it is.
Assessments such as those in the previous paragraph do an excellent job of helping us understand who we are and what our leadership style is like. And Human Leaders take it one step further. Human Leaders strive to understand why we are who we are. Not content to only understand the person we are today, Human Leaders want to understand how we got here. We want to know why some things matter to us, and why some things don’t. Why we shy away from some activities while charging full steam ahead in other areas.
This is not navel gazing, nor is it analyzing every move we make. It is about identifying patterns of behavior that consistently drive us or, conversely, stifle us. First, by becoming aware of them, then learning how they impact us, our relationships and our leadership. Perhaps even digging into when, how and why a pattern started. And finally, determining how to change those patterns that need changing and reinforcing those that are desirable.
In order to do all this, we have to be open to feedback, both positive and negative. And also open to learning something new about yourself, your relationships and your blind spots.
In sum, to be a Human Leader is to be vulnerable and authentic in all you are.
[reminder]Do you agree or disagree? Do a leader need to be open? [/reminder]