4 Debts Leaders Owe Their Followers
BY DR. ROBERT E. FOWLER
1. Honesty. Based on extensive research on leadership over two decades, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner claim that “more than anything, we want leaders who are credible. People must be able to believe in their leaders.” And according to them (authors of “The Leadership Challenge”), credibility is the result of honesty.
What does dishonesty look like in leadership? It is dishonest to hide reality from the people being led. It is dishonest to use the role to serve self and not those the role is designed to serve. It is dishonest not to give truthful feedback, in a loving way. It is dishonest for one to say, “I am on board with a direction,” and not offer one’s best to that direction. It is dishonest to speak kindly to someone’s face and poorly behind his or her back. Dishonesty destroys a leader’s credibility and hurts those the leader is leading.
2. Respect and Care. Leadership is ultimately about people. Where there are no people, there is no need for leaders. C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. … Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” The people a leader leads are not tools but people created in the image of God. And as God’s image- bearers, they are worthy of respect and care.
3. Clarity of Mission. Marcus Buckingham said, “Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear.” Leaders are responsible to provide clear direction to their teams. Without directional clarity, people move in a plethora of directions, even competing directions. Without clarity of mission, both the team and the people they serve suffer.
4. Future Leaders. When people follow a leader, they are expressing trust in the person they are following. In return, leaders owe the people they serve honesty, respect, clarity and future leaders. Leaders, we are servants and debtors.