Yesterday I watched KTN news or should I say whatever is left of it. I caught snippets of a real brawl of words in our Parliament. While I am glad someone is speaking up, I think it’s shameful that in Kenya we have to descend to brawls and drama to listen to each other. Indeed it has been an interesting week. Elsewhere others called each other names. Mganga (witchdoctor), mshenzi (is this fool or idiot I barely passed Swahili so forgive me). These names were thrown around with passion and vitriol.
As I reflected on it, I remembered once when speaking my mind out of turn got me into real trouble as a leader. I was justifiably angry at this arrogant Tanzanian auditor, and after he pressed my buttons one too many times like my county lady Millie I let him have it. I told him exactly what I thought of him, consigned him to hell and dispatched him there with a first class ticket. I felt vindicated. But guess what? he called my bluff packed up his staff and went to “hell aka Dar es Salaam”. Boom!
Let’s just say after a weekend of prayer and fasting because this kind of anger and unbridled use of the tongue only comes out by prayer and fasting, I had to call him apologize and he agreed to come back as he had been convicted too! Prayer works. I was glad I learnt that leadership lesson early on controlling my tongue and making my words count early. I was 27, that lesson stuck.
Our tongues are a small but can cause the greatest trouble in our leadership. A leader who does not learn to control his or her tongue will never amount to much. They lose respect, they look unwise as they are always having to retract, modify or rephrase your words. A leader who gossips and spreads the gossip will never be trusted with the King’s ear or the Kingdom. A leader who speaks terrible words in anger spreads fear amongst the team and eventually everyone avoids you as you literally are a walking time bomb. Then the followers vote with their feet.
So from the pink corner, leadership lesson number three is simple. Bridle your tongue and listen. Remember a silent leader looks wise even when they are not. Make your words few and let them count. When you speak it should be with grace, with wisdom and with discretion because as a leader one thing guaranteed is you will have to eat your words one day.
Leaders should carry praise lightly and value feedback greatly no matter where it comes. They should praise generously those they lead where it is deserving. One must also invest in developing a core group who will speak the truth to you in love when you need feedback. They become fewer the higher you go. Authentic Leadership is about learning how speak less and how to listen. Listen to your team, listen to your colleagues, listen to your customers, listen to your supervisors and yes, listen to your enemies too. Truth comes in all sorts of places.
Review the pages of the good Word. David under great provocation spoke little he called his would be murderer – My father. He had lots of praise for his God and very few words of anger for those who provoked him. He even left the kingdom for his son who felt he could be a better king. Joseph under great provocation and false accusation kept quiet and became prime minister from the same hand that jailed him.
Our Lord Jesus Christ modeled this very well. He spoke little and when He did speak, His words brought life. How much more should you do as a leader in your organization?
We are given 10000 words every day, some of us silent ones probably have 1000. 😀Your words will crown you. Do use them wisely or store them, when the times comes to hang do not hang because you said….words after all do not rot.