If you asked me to describe my “leadership values” yesterday, here’s what I would have said:
Empathy towards others, transparency with information, openness to new ideas, directness with feedback.
Today, I confidently asked my 14-person team to give me the honest truth, and this is what I now know about my real-life leadership behavior:
I am, more often than not, emotionally out of touch with my team.
I am apparently very transparent with information.
I am also comfortable with new ideas, change, and volatility (perhaps too comfortable).
I am either guarded or just plain stingy with feedback.
There's a big gap between my values and my behavior on multiple dimensions. Some affirmation, but plently of OUCH.
As a CEO (or any leader), you have the unique power to prevent uncomfortable truths from being said or heard. You can shut people up with pressure, or remove them altogether, thus insulating yourself from reality. But that doesn't make the truth go away.
Uncomfortable truths demand uncomfortable action.
Though I'm tempted to lock myself into a corner office and stick my fingers in my ears while I whisper "I am a great leader. I am a great leader" to myself, I know that would only detach me further from reality. I'd prefer to know the blind spots. This anonymous survey was like a long overdue checkup. You can only treat an illness when you can properly diagnose it.
I'm hoping that by sharing these results, I'll be accountable to change. For me, the goals are simple: give more feedback, pay attention to how people feel, and be a little more steady.