A leader’s willingness to listen to uncomfortable truths is an asset. When a leader asks for input about their way of doing things and acts on the information it can have a transformative effect.
For instance, a CEO having difficulty with a local authority in relation to financing and funding asked his senior staff for their input on why it was proving so difficult. He took the risk of asking them if he was adding to the problem rather than the solution. What he heard next was uncomfortable – that he came across as defensive and stubborn.
He recognised from their comments that his investment and commitment to the service was in fact perceived as aggressive and know it all.
He responded by stepping away from the next scheduled meting with the local authority and the operations director attended instead. The outcome was positive, not only in relation to the funding but to an improved working relationship.
Openness to criticism and willingness to act on what is heard are courageous choices. In this instance relationships with the local authority could have been further strained and senior staff continue to observe rather than input.
Instead the question of ‘am I helping or am I hindering?’ changed the dynamic internally and externally.
It couldn’t have been easy for the CEO to learn that he wasn’t the ideal representative for the organisation at that time, but in asking, listening, and then responding he exhibited true leadership ability.
By looking for uncomfortable truths, you become a better leader.