Learning to “Say What You See” Like Nathan
The rise to a position of power often carries with it a hidden danger: the increasing presence of “yes men.” As leaders climb higher, they risk becoming isolated from authentic feedback, surrounded instead by those who merely nod in agreement.
The true essence of leadership lies not in mere acquiescence, but in understanding one’s purpose and having the courage to “say what you see.” A lesson from a biblical tale underscores the importance of genuine feedback and the transformative nature of authentic leadership.
A Common Leadership Weakness
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 yearned for colleagues who would engage with him, voice their honest opinions, and challenge his perspectives occasionally.
Are you surrounded by people who are afraid to challenge your authority? Or those hesitant to offer an opposing view? As individuals climb the professional ladder or work for those holding significant positional power, the stakes of speaking out increase. People stop themselves from saying what they see or feel because they fear repercussions, be it in terms of job security, professional growth, or peer perception. There’s an unspoken concern that voicing a contrary opinion might be viewed as insubordination or dissent, potentially jeopardizing one’s standing or future opportunities. This becomes confusing when the core value statements issue language such as, “transparency”, “honesty”, “feedback”. It is a mixed message.
Corporate cultures that don’t actively encourage open dialogue can further exacerbate this problem, creating an environment where conformity is prized over candor. Isn’t it human to choose the safer route, nodding in agreement even when they might hold reservations?
On the other side of this, do you, despite these pressures, have the bravery to “say what you see” – and to encourage others to do the same? Recognizing and valuing honest feedback and diverse opinions can be the mark of true leadership.
Small Role, Big Leadership
One of my cherished leadership figures is a prophet from the Judeo-Christian Old Testament. Though his role might be fleeting, his influence is profound, shaping a critical narrative that extends even into the New Testament.
This character is Nathan.
Serving King David as a trusted advisor, Nathan emerges as an epitome of genuine servant leadership. 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 King David got lost inside of his title, he took another man’s wife and then killed that man to get him out of the way. Feeling that his actions were completely justified – after all, he was the king and could do as he wished – David went along his merry way.
But a big leadership gaffe was left unaddressed. There were those who were concerned and said nothing. 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?
5 Ways to Fulfill Your Leadership Purpose
What can you learn from Nathan? There are five actions to be admired and emulated that Nathan role-modeled to fulfill his leadership purpose.
Teachers and lessons can be found everywhere—in literature, scriptures, or within our circles. Reflect on this: Is there a Nathan in your life you might be overlooking? Or perhaps, is there a scenario beckoning you to embrace your inner Nathan? Harness that courage and chart a new course in your leadership journey.
Embracing Leadership Purpose
In the landscape of leadership, understanding and embracing one’s leadership purpose is paramount. But, an equally important aspect is to have the valor to “say what you see.” Leaders must recognize the perils of positional power and the tendency it brings to be surrounded by “yes men.” By cultivating an environment where genuine feedback is cherished, leaders can truly rise above, making decisions anchored in diverse perspectives and authenticity. As you navigate your leadership journey, remember the lessons from the past and prioritize your leadership purpose, always having the courage to voice the truth. And if you just happen to have a truth teller in your midst, allow true leadership humility to emerge as you listen with an open heart.
Have You Ever Wondered About Your Level of Emotional Intelligence?
One aspect of transformation is self awareness. At the base of transformation is self awareness intertwined with emotional intelligence. If you are curious about how your Emotional Intelligence skills stack up, check out the Humanized Leader EQ quiz. Answer a few short questions, then watch your email for your results and a little extra coaching to help elevate your EQ skills.