Why Followers Sometimes Find it Difficult to Speak Honestly to Their Leaders

Two biz peopleHave you ever had the experience as a leader where there was a misunderstanding between you and one of your followers, but you only learn of it from someone else? There you are, thinking everything is going great with those you lead and unaware that there is some talk going around about that is not necessarily true.

The reaction of most leaders would be, “Why didn’t that person come to me first?” And while that is the right thing to do, it is often not the reality for many leaders who only hear about a situation long after the fact.

Why is it that so many leaders do not hear directly from those who are upset with or offended by them? We aren’t going to focus on the many reasons for the problem. I would like to focus on how you as the leader could make it easier for you to hear about the situation before anyone else.

Treat others’ ideas with respect. There is a saying I often here used when ideas are being discussed—“I am attacking your ideas, I am not attacking you.” That has to be one of the most misleading statements I hear among leaders.

People share their idea as something they thought about and they feel it has some merit in the conversation. In a certain way, a person’s idea is part of who they are. It is how they see the situation or problem. As a result of their ideas being put down and treated with disrespect by the leader, they may not feel the freedom to be honest with the leader. Nor should the leader expect them to be the first to speak up whenever there is a misunderstanding.

They may be thinking that the leader will treat whatever they have to say with disrespect. And who would knowingly go into a situation to be disrespected.

Be aware of how you are perceived. Be careful to not come across as the know-it-all, my way or the highway kind of a leader. Very often the leader who is perceived in this way is seen as arrogant. And what’s the point of trying to be honest with such a person.

The way to avoid being perceived in this way is to ask questions and for clarifications when discussing ideas. Be open to learning new things. And when you learn something new, acknowledge it and publicly thank the person who shared the new thing you learned. That shows humility and a willingness to learn.

Lay out the reason for your decisions. This is often a challenge for many leaders, especially those who hold to the view of what they say goes, because they are the leader. Your followers will be more open to being honest with you when they see you care enough to explain to them why you feel certain changes are necessary or why going a different direction is necessary. Most people dislike just being told what to do without being told why it is necessary, other than because I am leader and I want you to.

Some leaders are so insecure they can’t risk putting the reasons for what they are doing out there for fear of it being challenged or outright rejected. It is the leader who is willing to be vulnerable and honest who is able to get her followers to be candid with her.

Have you been struggling to get your followers to be candid with you?

Are you only hearing second hand what they are really thinking?

Maybe it’s time for you to evaluate your leadership style. Look over the areas discussed, and see if they can help you discover why there is a lack of honesty among your followers and what you need to start doing or stop doing today so they can start being candid with you.

If you would like help in achieving your goals in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at errol@errolcarrim.com to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.

Photo credit: MyDigitalSLR via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND