During the SWOT of a recent strategic planning session with a client, the leader posed a weakness to the group.
“I don’t want to be surrounded by ‘yes’ men, anymore”.
He wanted people who would participate with him, tell him the truth and challenge his ideas from time to time.
Are you surrounded by those who are afraid to challenge your authority? Are you surrounded by those reluctant to pose a counter thought or idea? On the other hand, are YOU willing to say what you see?
One of my favorite business leaders is a prophet found in the Judeo-Christian Old Testament. He has a small, recurring walk-on role yet his impact reverberates and sets the tone for the rest of the story – and it’s a BIG story. An entire New Testament story.
This character is Nathan.
Nathan served in the court of the king as a trusted advisor. King David, born of humble beginnings and moved to greatness through purpose and alignment, had lost his way. Forgetting what he was here on earth to do, power went to his head. He was a king, for heaven’s sake, and that’s some positional power! As he got lost inside of his title, he took another man’s wife and then killed that man to get him out of the way. Totally justified as the king, he went along his merry way. A big leadership gaffe was left unaddressed because, after all, who was going to ruin his palace career by challenging such authority?
Ahhh, but here comes Nathan. Nathan has deep love for David and for his purpose and for what he knows can be created through him. At great risk to himself, he says what he sees. That act of courage allows David to see what he needs to see to shift and change and re-engage as the leader.
Nathan – the name means, “A gift”. What better gift can we give our leaders than to say what we see, to bring the light of truth forward, to offer feedback, to say ‘no’ when it needs to be said?
Nathan proves himself a worthy servant, a supportive friend and a true leader.
What can you learn from Nathan? There are five actions to be admired and emulated that Nathan role-modeled to fulfill his leadership purpose.
- I Care Enough About You – Tough love is not mean. Tough love involves the courage to bring a murky situation into light or to hold another accountable to their highest and best. When you care enough about the person and the vision, you will create a space for truth and love. When you say what you see, without judgment or censure, things can shift and change for the greater good.
- I Will Meet You Where You Are – Nathan used a story to create an opening for David to recognize himself. Sometimes people can’t hear the bald truth. A wise leader meets the person where they are and then finds a way to deliver the feedback so that it can be received. Be aware when you are feeling righteous about the situation. Wise leaders lead with the relationship.
- I Lead on Purpose – Lead on purpose and you are connected to a higher order. This makes you teachable, ethical and aligned. You can focus on the common good, rather than career politics. Like Nathan, when you are on purpose, you are aligned to the larger vision with personal agenda taking a back seat.
- You and I Are More Than Our Titles – Wise leaders walk among their followers. Wise followers find a way to remind their leaders of that. Nathan found equal footing for a greater purpose. Find the courage to flatten the hierarchy and say what needs to be said.
- I Practice Forgiveness and Offer Renewal – Leaders are human and they stumble and fall like the rest of us. In the spotlight and high on the org chart, the fall can be hard and very public. What Nathan shows you is to communicate feedback in private, practice empathy so that the other can self-discover, and then be willing to participate in the transformation. Offer support, hold space, and create agreements.
You can find your teachers anywhere….in the office, in literature, in scripture, in your family. Is there a Nathan you are not listening to right now? Is there a situation that requires you to be Nathan? Find the courage and change the course of history.