I want to swim upstream for a moment. I want us to go beyond all of the surveys we have taken, all of the books we have read, and talk about something other than our personality profile. We have done our best to become better leaders with all of those things… but have we audited ourselves against one of the most important questions: Do we speak the truth in love?
If you are a leader, I don’t think there is any other question you need to ask yourself to gauge your leadership effectiveness. There is no other equation that gets at the heart of the leader relationship. Sure, we can talk about our profiles, strengths, and everything else we have done to try to prove your competence and uniqueness… but if we don’t have the ability to speak the truth in love, I’m afraid we are wasting time.
There have been many leaders who can do one of those two things well. There are many brilliant people who can speak the truth. They speak the truth in such a way that has made them successful and have often times risen to the top of their ladder. They are so good at speaking truth, that they have often times silenced those around them and built security into being subject matter experts who always bring you back to their subject – without letting you speak to something beyond their arena of expertise.
There have been many leaders who are loving. They love people so well that others are attracted to them, and they can build quite a following of people because they are often times charismatic and charming. They are so loving, that often times, they neglect the truth that needs to be spoken. That is not loving… that is cowardice. People can be so loving that they lack the capacity to bring people with them to the place where truth resides. To the place they need to go to actually change the order of things around them.
Author Warren Wiersbe is quoted as saying “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” More often than not, I can think of times in my leadership when I have not created a space where others have sensed the freedom to engage me in both truth and love. I have had people present me with either truth, or love, but rarely both. As the sender of information, I get so hesitant to speak truth because I don’t want to be misunderstood. I get hesitant to express love because I know behind those sentiments, is a truth I lack the boldness to offer them.
What if we swam upstream to the source of our interactions we have with people? What if we simply asked – do we have what it takes to speak the truth in love to those closest to us? Do we have the ability to speak truth in such a way that does not demean or leave people wounded? Do we have the capacity to love those around us enough to tell them the truth and truly help them get to a healthier place? Until we can speak the truth in love, I am afraid we are simply wasting countless resources on external tactics, and neglecting the real source of effective leadership…