When a leader should be candid
February 27, 2008
I wondered this—"If people knew at times how scared I am, would they trust me?"— as I wrote my quarterly report to the Board of Governors.
What is the role of candor in the life of a leader? What is the balance between fessing up to those we are accountable, and pressing on in faith and courage?
I've been in leadership since graduating from university in 1966. During my early days in Montreal as director of Youth for Christ, I had no substantial idea what to do. I was out of my depth. The youth ministry was bankrupt. Expo ‘67 was almost over. Moving vans were lined up ready to move English-speaking Quebecers down Hwy 401 to Toronto. And with them a whole bunch of Evangelicals from whom came our financial support. Quebec was about to feel the wrath of political fanatics.
I don't think I ever told the YFC Board of my fears, but I do recall Al Setter, Jim Hill and others surrounding me with encouragement and love. I attribute learning how to lead as much from these guys as from any others. A critical factor was their willingness to let me make mistakes: and within those mistakes, to hold me in accountability and love.
Fast forward 40 years.
So when is it appropriate for my current board to know how I feel?
I don't know when, but I know it's seldom. It is an expression we use on rare occasions.
Gratefully, I have seven guys—we retreat twice a year—with whom I can freely and openly express my feelings. In confidence. To loving hands. With security. And for good purpose.
So why not tell my board or senior staff? Because that's not helpful in management.
Central to leading is the activity of faith. It defines us like little else. It is what we bring to the enterprise. It is what our boards look to us for. They don't need to hear of my fears. They need the lift of my walk and trust in the provision of the Lord.
Fear is not the antithesis of faith. Confidence is. Fear is a fertile ground in which the seed of faith grows and overcomes.
There's nothing wrong in being afraid. We all are at times. Find the right person and time to express it, so that in facing it, you build skills to overcome it by faith.
Gracious Giver of Faith, by your indwelling Holy Spirit may I stand in the face of frights and fears, knowing Your gift of faith is a never-ending source. Lord, give me boldness so I may see beyond the immediate skirmishes, out to the periphery where the great warriors of Your unending Kingdom are ever ready to assist. For in You, I am strong. Amen.
"If people knew at times how scared I am, would they trust me?"