One of our opportunities as leaders is to bring our values and beliefs into the open for others to see. Our actions may be confusing or even appear contradictory if we leave it to people to guess where we are coming from. When we provide a framework that allows others to understand our motives and actions we give our team the benefit of context. To make this possible there are important steps we can take.
- Reflect upon, understand and shape our beliefs.
As leaders, it is important that we take the time to learn what we believe. This is different from what we “think” we believe. It requires close examination of our actions, reactions and emotions. When we discover our true beliefs we may find that some of these beliefs are harming rather than helping us and that we need to make changes to better align with our values and the vision we have for our lives. This is a cycle we should repeat often. If we are open and willing to fearlessly examine our choices these beliefs will continue to evolve throughout our lives.
- Openly share our beliefs, at least as it relates to our leadership philosophy.
We can speak to our beliefs and approach to leadership with our team and continue to reinforce those ideas during individual conversations. This will create accountability and encourage us to act in alignment with our words. As different events occur where we are called upon to act, and do so in a manner consistent with our stated beliefs, we will increase the confidence and security the team feels about our leadership. The opposite is also true, when we act erratically, inconsistently, and provide no context for our actions, we create an environment of uncertainty and even fear.
- Invite others to share their beliefs and be open to letting them influence us.
Because our beliefs are subject to our unique life experience they will sometimes come into conflict with beliefs held by others. In these moments it is important to listen and try to understand the source of the disconnect. In some cases we may truly disagree and this will require further reflection, communication or action to resolve; in other situations the gap may simply be a misunderstanding and we find that after talking it out we are not so far apart. In every case these discussions provide the opportunity to reflect on what we believe and consider the possibility that we may need to revisit our position.
- Seek an honest, outside assessment of our alignment.
It’s easy to think we are acting in ways that agree with our stated beliefs. Yet we are all capable of significant rationalization and self-deception. It can be difficult to open ourselves up to feedback that contradicts the perception we have of ourselves, but the risk is worth the reward. By asking our team for this level of honest feedback we not only create a path to improve our leadership effectiveness, (and our own self-esteem), but also strengthen our bond of trust with those we serve. When we admit where we have missed the target, and make the required changes to our behavior, we model a way of leading that deepens our connections and influences others to follow in our footsteps.
When we let others “see what we believe” we open the door to positive growth for ourselves and for our team. Have you had an experience with sharing and living your beliefs as a leader that might benefit others? I’d love to hear your story.
Originally published 6/18/14.