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Brutality and Crediblity

by Deborah Rinner, VP, Chief Learning Officer, Tero International

Nancy Koehn in a well written Harvard Business Review article clearly defines what is needed in a leader and their message during a crisis. "Your job, as a leader today, is to provide both brutal honesty - a clear accounting of the challenges your locality, company, non-profit, or team faces - and credible hope that collectively you and your people have the resources needed to meet the threats you face each day: determination, solidarity, strength, shared purpose, humanity, kindness, and resilience."

Honesty and hope are essential in a leader's message. Yet it is the adjectives Koehn places before honesty and hope that make them work.

Brutal honesty. The word brutal means unpleasantly accurate and incisive. It is human nature for people to stay in denial when faced with fear and threat. The brutally honest leader and message shakes people out of denial, so they can realize the accuracies of their situation and prepare for their role and consequences.

Credible hope. It is essential for a leader to inspire the expectation and desire to believe things will get better. But it is the leader's obligation to project a reality based on fact and intelligence, not opinion or magical thinking. The leader's message must be reliable and consistent to inspire a hope others can trust.

In this time of crisis, we are faced daily with complexity and ambiguity. Messages wrought with information which seems deflected, denied and distorted. It is a challenge to decipher the truth, and know where to place our hope.

We cannot control what we get. We can only control what we give.

We are all leaders in some sense, be it of our organization, our team, or our family. We cannot control what we get, but we can choose in this time of crisis in whatever capacity we lead, to communicate with a brutal honesty and a credible hope.

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