There are times when serving in a leadership position feels like one of the loneliest jobs in the world, particularly when the person is the sole decision-maker.
It then may seem like a mystery how such a leader might openly communicate with all people, since there are things the leader may not feel like they are able to discuss.
Before getting into the open communication element, let’s consider a few points about leadership first. Think about the following questions:
First, how has the leader been trained up for the position?
Learning to lead is key. Understanding the elements, the tools, the flow of leadership all help a person comprehend what leadership is about. Reading texts on leadership theory is one way to get at these components. Attending workshops or trainings, taking up a leadership degree, and watching videos are also great steps to take.
The challenge is that some leaders stop there: they take the courses, read the books, watch the videos, or attend the trainings, but they haven’t made the leap to living out what was learned.
Think of it like learning to ride a bicycle: it’s possible to learn how to pedal a bike and go by learning the science behind centrifugal force, gravity, and speed. However, a person who reads about riding a bike hasn’t actually rode one.
Similarly, a person who has only read about being a leader hasn’t done any leading — even if they carry a leader’s title.
Training to lead is vital, which leads to the next question:
Who is mentoring the leader?
Reading about leadership or taking up courses and training about leadership are very important, but like getting from the bottom to the top of a mountain, it takes more than one step.
Being a leader means being open to receiving support, not just giving it. Leaders need to be connected to other leaders for mentoring, and so they can see leadership in action, because it doesn’t always look the same in every circumstance.
Mentor-leaders may take one of two forms.
- The exemplar. This type of mentor is a person who exhibits the qualities other leaders want to emulate. An exemplar mentor-leaders may live out the qualities other leaders have read about in their books and courses. They are willing to have other leaders shadow them at meetings and in the workplace to see what they do. They are open to questions, give open answers, and will admit when they don’t know. They will share stories of poor decision-making as well as the tales of success.
- The antipode. The term ‘antipode’ means opposite, as in ‘as far as east is from west’. This type of mentor-leader is actually an anti-mentor, one who shows other leaders what they may not want to do or be. The anti-mentor-leader does what is indicated in the texts or workshops as what a leader should not do. They are not open to questions or their responses to questions do not help other leaders grow. They are not willing to explain and re-explain. Their sharing includes the greatest of sacrifices and success on their part. An observer, if invited to their offices, will pick up on the reactions of the anti-mentor-leader’s colleagues and likely will find the relationships are not as stellar as presented.
Choosing a mentor is not easy but there are ways to engage that won’t take a lot of extra time, reviewing resumes and job histories. Seeking professional groups to join and asking questions at conferences is a great way to start the process.
How does mentorship relate to communication?
Think about the exemplary mentor-leaders you’ve had as well as any antipode mentor-leaders you’ve worked with: chances are, the exemplary ones listen and talk.
The order is purposeful: listen and talk.
Communication requires both and not in equal measure. There is a verse of scripture that suggests people should be willing to do twice as much listening compared to how much they talk.
The superpower here isn’t rocket science. Willingness to listen is one of the most important ways to exhibit open communication with colleagues. The second component is speaking with necessity.
If you need a partner in your leadership journey who will help you think about communication as it relates to you and your team, let’s connect.