Most leaders live in a bubble. They hear much positive but little negative. Compliments abound and are tightly grasped. Criticism rarely penetrates and dies a quick death.

The best leaders I know are feedback hungry. They are not insecure or compliment-addicted. They do, though, hunger for the “mirror effect.” Show me the truth. Show it raw. Tell it all. These leaders want to improve. They don’t let offense or cowardice keep them from the harsh truth about themselves. This means growth and, in time, success.

If you read Leading Thoughts regularly, you either are a leader or you yearn to be. Let me challenge you to do a brave thing: purposely go after the feedback you need to improve. Here’s how.

Take Inventory
Find some unchallenged time and do a personal leadership inventory. List your strengths and then your weaknesses as you see them. Risk being brutally honest. Then, list the criticism you’ve received in your leadership life. Again, put it all down. Remember what E. Stanley Jones said: “My critics are the unpaid guardians of my soul.” Let your critics speak. And then listen to them. Take time to ponder the wisdom your critics have for you without letting hurt or offense get in the way.

Ask Your Spouse
Unfair, I know. However, most leaders marry smart people. The problem is, they rarely listen to them. So, sit your spouse down and create a safe environment: “Honey, I want you to tell me anything you’ve seen about how I lead that needs changing. Trust me. I won’t make you pay for it, and there won’t be any tension. I just want to hear the unvarnished truth from you.” Then, shut up and listen. Write it down. And do what you promised—don’t pick a fight.

Enlist Equals
Obviously, I don’t mean “equals” here in the socio-economic sense. I mean it in the employment sense. Enlist the input of people who are close enough to know your leadership style but who also know you can’t fire them. Ask them what they’ve seen, what your weaknesses are, even what they’ve heard. Goad them to honesty. Write it down. If it hurts, that means improvement is on its way. Ask these same people for suggestions for getting better. Ponder it all—deeply.

Find a Mentor
Most adults stop having mentors when they leave their last high school sports team. That’s a mistake. Mentors abound in the world and we all need them. When you think of a mentor, don’t picture an older person sitting under a tree in a toga while dispensing wisdom. A potential mentor is anyone who does something better than you. If you are wise, you enlist their help in that one area. Perhaps you pay them–or just buy lunch three times in a month. Open yourself to their evaluations and their guidance. If they are any good, their evaluations will sting and their guidance will change the way you lead. Enlist mentors. Often.

Once you’ve heard all this input and written it down, revisit it from time to time. Do these same exercises again with different people months later. You can always check in with the same spouse, though. They will notice change. The goal here is to pursue raw input and make necessary changes all while getting over your hurts and insecurities in the process.

It takes courage. It may make for some sleepless nights. Yet if you are the leader you think you are, this process will make you better than you ever thought you would be. Remember, you cannot change meaningfully as a leader based only on what you see. You need the eyes of others on your life.

Now go change. And have a good weekend.


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