As a leader, you need to remember that your words can be interpreted in so many different ways. And that your words are useless if you don’t keep the promises you make. As Steven Covey, an American educator, author, businessman and keynote speaker, once said: “What you do has far greater impact than what you say”.
This is why I believe that clarity is so important. Sure, in the easy times when everything is running as it should there are fewer hurdles and so there is less need for clarity. But when you face tough times, if things aren’t as crystal clear as possible you’ll find that people have differing ideas about how to proceed, which causes conflict and confusion. If your definition of what something means and your partners’ or employees’ definition of what something means don’t align, someone will be left disappointed.
Leading today, for tomorrow
I like to think of it as being a bit like a dam wall. When the rain is falling and the water in the dam is high the owners of the wall hire a wide range of staff to look after and maintain the wall. But then a drought comes along and the dam dries up. A foolish leader will drastically reduce the amount of people tending to the dam wall because they currently don’t require as much monitoring and maintenance. But what happens when it starts raining and the dam fills up again? And all of the experts who’ve been working on the dam are no longer around to handle the influx of water?
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s very tempting to “cut corners” when things aren’t going as well as you’d like them to. I think we all understand this in our current COVID-19/lockdown predicament. But, as much as possible, leaders need to view tough times as an opportunity to identify new possibilities, to adapt and prepare for when dam levels start rising. Often these decisions are quite difficult to make.
The point I am trying to get across with this story is that a good leader understands the importance of preserving your resources during the good times so you can handle the bad times and maintaining your resources during the bad times so you can capitalise when things pick up again.
In these situations, clarity requires that you explain what you’re doing and why you are doing it. Leaders need to be clear about their actions and their intentions. Clarity and communication in a crisis is a non-negotiable, the two need to go hand-in-hand.
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