I am talking about the set of beliefs we as leaders have, often gone unnamed or unexamined, but held strongly that influence what we do and why we do it.
For example, one of my clients distrusted everyone. Although we never discussed his comprehensive distrust with much analysis (not surprisingly he really distrusted people who talked about their philosophies of leadership and life), probably he had been disappointed at some time or maybe often in his personal history. So he did not believe in the competence of others or their ability to do what had to be done.
Consequently he controlled everything. Every decision, every proposal, every action, every problem had to be passed through him because he had no faith in anyone else. It was a miserable place to work and I decided early in my contract there that I would not renew it.
So, there is leadership born of doubt and mistrust that spawns a particular set of beliefs albeit negative and pessimistic ones.
You will probably be glad to know that I am not going to talk about them. I want to list out the tenets of faith (positive and optimistic) that are embraced by all effective and admirable leaders.
#1 – Faith in the cause. Even for-profit enterprises have a cause and it is usually not limited to making money. Profit is important (without it the enterprise ceases) but it is not the only reason organizations exist and certainly not the only reason why leaders lead. No, we believe in the utility and value of the product or service we offer. Indeed, if we don’t, I suggest we will not last long and we certainly will not enjoy our work. No, tenet number one is faith in the cause. We believe in what we do, in whom and what we represent. (Hint: If you don’t, why do you stay at that company?)
#2 – Faith in yourself. Struggling with self-doubt is not all that unusual, but confident leaders inspire followers to follow, to participate enthusiastically, and to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the cause. Further, there is that sense of self-confidence, faith in one’s ability to carry out the task successfully, to meet the expectations comprehensively, and to fulfill the position completely that contributes to a person’s sense of success. Armies cannot respond to an uncertain trumpet call.
#3 – Faith in others. The sooner you can learn to trust others, the happier everyone will be. No one is suggesting that a leader or manager abandon all devices of accountability. I am suggesting that you allow people to do their jobs. If you’re uncertain, build in accountability points that are independent of you. Schedule dates and times for reports. Look for natural and normal events that demand a check like incremental development dates for a project. But leaders of faith simply do not pester people. You’ve enough to do without trying to do what everyone else does, too. And if a person you’ve employed simply fails to meet the job requirements, there is someone out there who can. Find them.
#4 – Faith in proven methods. When I turn the key in the ignition switch in my car, I expect the engine to start. The first person who started an internal combustion engine was not so certain. I can be certain because I have a history of trying certain things and know they will work. I accept them because they’ve worked.
#5 – Faith in tomorrow. John Wayne had a great way of looking at this. He said that “Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.” Some are fearful of the future (lacking in faith), others are resentful of the past (lacking in forgiveness and forgetfulness). Great leaders are neither. They aren’t naïve. They learned yesterday’s lessons. But they are optimistic because they’re ready to try out the lessons of yesterday on tomorrow’s challenges.
Leaders without faith seem to be able to self-fulfill prophecy. They can recount horror stories of how their faith let them down and they had to respond negatively and with more comprehensive controls. I don’t even try to change their minds. Their belief is in unbelief. I chose to be a leader of faith. It’s a lot nicer place to live.