One day as Jesus was walking with his disciples he asked them a curious question, “Who do people say that I am?” They said that the jury was still out; some people thought he was Elijah, some thought he was a re-headed John the Baptist, and some thought he was one of the ancient prophets back from the dead. He then asked a follow-up question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded immediately, “You are the Christ of God”.
As leaders these are two of the most important question we can ask.
- Who do the ministry leaders, the staff, and the congregation, the customers say that I am? What is their perception of me as a leader?
- Who do you say that I am? As my direct reports, the people who work closest to me, the people who are most responsible for carrying out the vision I have cast, how would you describe my leadership style?
In order for these questions to be effective two things must be true. First you have to be a leader who is comfortable in your own skin. Jesus knew who he was. He wasn’t looking for validation or flattery; he wanted to know how he was perceived in the eyes of his followers. There is a great deal of risk in getting this kind of feedback and you may not really want to know the truth.
The second thing that must be true is the leader has to have the kind of relationship with her followers that Jesus had with his disciples. They spent an inordinate amount of time together, they experienced life at every level as a team and nothing was off the table when they met. An insecure leader may ask these questions but the people who report to her won’t answer honestly. They will simply echo what they know she wants to hear.
I know a young leader who has risen very quickly in his organization. He perceives himself as a disciplined, approachable and able leader who people follow willingly. I also know some of the people beneath him in the organization who have a very different picture. Their perception is that he has risen in the organization because he knows how to play the game. They would describe him as a micro-manager who doesn’t respond to email or return phone calls. The reality is that he has the potential to be a great leader, but he will be derailed if doesn’t find a way to hear the truth from the people tasked with following him. (If you think I’m writing about you 1) You’re probably wrong 2) You should ask your team if the shoe fits)
We all have blind spots in our leadership; the challenge with blind spots is we can’t see them (that’s why they’re called blind spots). The only way we can see what we can’t see is to ask those who can. Your team knows who you really are, you just need to ask them. And be prepared to hear the truth.