One of the early leaders I reported to was strong in personality, creative, energetic, a good communicator, and never short on ideas. In other words this leader could at times be very intimidating. At least from my perspective. I remember early in the relationship I would over prepare for our appointments, feeling like I needed to get every aspect of the encounter just right. I quickly realized that none of my concerns were necessary to gain an entree. Why?
This leader was a hospitable leader.
There was a spirit of generosity that encompassed nearly all of our meetings. I began to see that my well being and development were at the top of his agenda. He took time to discern my gifts, abilities, and desires. He looked for ways to maximize my contribution towards the organization’s mission. There was space for my trivial complaints and there were words of correction that were delivered in such a way so as to bring hope. In a word I felt “safe.” To feel “safe” is to feel free from harm or risk–to not be in danger. It is be secure.
Hospitality is defined as “the generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests.”
Leadership hospitality includes the necessity and obligation to create “safe space.”
4 Areas Where Leadership Hospitality Matters
1. Safe space is necessary for new ideas. Some of the best ideas today are coming from some of he youngest and newest members of your team. A culture of change is so embedded in our society that innovation is necessary. You may miss out on the “next big thing” if your leadership produces a tried and true approach to getting things done. And you may never capture that innovative spirit if your leadership makes it a dangerous place to bring up new ideas. Not every new idea is gold. But most new ideas, if they are anchored in your vision, mission and values, will contain golden threads that are worth your attention. That requires safe space for even the youngest and newest team member.
2. Safe space is necessary for difficult conversations. Difficult conversations are usually corrective conversations. They often reflect the need for change in conduct or character. Those conversations become less than hospitable if there is the threat of punishment. Those you are seeking to correct will further hide their behavior next time and begin to poison the team atmosphere. A hospitable leader will create the safe space for honest, developmental conversations to take place.
3. Safe space is necessary for divergent points of view. It is difficult to go against leadership. It is much easier to live in compliance. But healthy confrontation can lead to growth, both organizationally and personally. Do you invite alternative points of view? Do you challenge your own assumptions through the voice of others? Are you able to be wrong? Are you open to a different point of view? Subordinates can tell when there is room for healthy defiance.
4. Safe space is necessary for trying and failing. The first job of every leader is to raise up more leaders. That happens primarily be way of empowerment. That means that you provide enough resources, decision making authority, and feedback to let someone lift their leadership wings. That may mean they crash and burn. Is it safe where you lead to do so? It feels dangerous to always be controlled. Can you risk elements of the mission for the sake of an emerging leader’s development? It is life giving when trying and failing is acceptable.
4 Keys To Unlocking The Door To Leadership Hospitality
1. Make time to get to know someone at a heart level. People feel safe when you get to know them beyond their HR summary. People feel valued when you make time to get to know their story. People are ultimately your most important resource. They are worth your time as a leader. Invest in getting to know their history, motives, passions, and fears. To do so will only invite their authenticity and belief in you as a leader. To be truly known is to be on the safe path.
2. Listen well without interruption. Many leaders like to hear themselves talk. Their ideas are always the most important ones. We need to listen well as leaders to the input of those we lead. We need to hear them out completely. We need to listen not just to the idea, complaint, or excuse. It feels risky to say what’s on your mind. We need to listen for the attitude or motive behind it. We need to pick up on the passion or anxiety that stands behind the passionate communication. That will ensure that future communication will come out into the open, and not just around the water cooler.
3. Normalize feelings without judgment. Every person on your team has life happening to them–all the time. And there is no way to divorce what life throws at us from our job obligations. We are whole people. Sometimes this can express itself in sheer joy over something wonderful, or it can be revealed in dread over an uncertain future. All of this comes into the team. Is there room under your leadership for people to feel OK about all that they are going through? Is your posture one that can respond with a non-anxious presence that communicates celebration or compassion? A hospitable leader can allow his or her followers to be themselves without predetermining their future value in the midst of trying times. And they can communicate safety.
4. Find the “thread of goodness” in every crazy idea, every complaint, and in every defense. This takes work. People take their cues from all corners of the internet and beyond about how to take the organization to new heights. They can also become instantly agitated about the smallest thing. Their core fears will rise up and cause them to create the most robust defense. But a safe environment allows for a measure of insanity. The hospitable leader learns to read between the lines and discern the part that is worthy of further discussion. Most rants have a valid point. Most “great” ideas are attempts to solve valid problems. Many a defense stands in front of a valid fear. Hospitality gets beyond the noise to find the “thread of goodness” so that danger is averted.
Leadership hospitality begins with your front door. Is it open or closed?
The Bible also speaks to this notion of hospitality.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:9-13
What are your thoughts?