Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
There is a fascinating article in the September 3rd to 9th edition of The Economist regarding Uber and its ambitions to revolutionize the future of transport. Uber is currently the world’s most valuable startup with a market capitalization of about $70 billion (US).
One comment in particular caught my attention. Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber, has instituted a management system whereby he invites brutally honest feedback from his deputies. “He changes himself faster than we can change our algorithms,” says Thuan Pham, Uber’s Chief Technology Officer. Pham once told Kalanick he did not thank people often enough. As a result, Kalanick, apparently, changed his behaviour.
In my business experience, Kalanick’s leadership style is not common. Many, if not most, senior business leaders are uncomfortable sharing weaknesses or inviting honest staff feedback regarding their ideas and their conduct. Many believe that any show of weakness will undermine their authority and their effectiveness. As a result, there is a common tendency among such leaders to hide their uncertainties and misgivings. In addition, they often send signals that discourage those they lead from speaking up even when they have serious misgivings about a particular course of action.
Being transparent about personal uncertainties and weaknesses make me a more effective leader.
The reality is that we are all a composite of strengths and weaknesses. Over my time leading business organizations, I discovered that being transparent about personal uncertainties makes me a more effective leader. Acknowledging that I don’t have all the answers inspires other team members to share ideas. As a result, we are better able to accomplish our corporate goals with the added benefit of joint ownership of the action plan.
As a follower of Jesus, I become acutely aware of my own weaknesses and shortcomings when I compare my ideas and attitudes with those of Jesus as recorded in the Bible. Thus, he is the most important person with whom I want to be transparent. I really need his feedback. After all, Jesus knows everything about me and the future. Moreover, the Bible is clear that his plans for me are always in my best interest.
Paul, who wrote a significant percentage of the New Testament, was one of the most accomplished leaders of his day. His letters to the early church have been read by or to billions of people over the last two millennia. The impact of his life down to the present day is enormous. He had every reason to boast and to rely upon his personal strengths rather than consult with others. Yet he yielded his ideas to scrutiny by other leaders in the early church [Galatians 2:1-2]. I am particularly inspired by the following words of Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth.
“Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size – abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (2 Corinthians 12:10, The Message).
How is your transparency quotient?
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.