Leaders, If You Want to Build an Honoring Culture, Do This – Why Protecting Connection in Your Own Life Must Come First

Bob Hasson

(an excerpt from The Business of Honor)

Dishonor is not usually something we actively choose—it is our default choice driven by fear when we are not actively choosing honor. Leaders must realize that there is no neutral ground; they are either actively choosing honor or falling into dishonor, actively pursuing the goal of connection or defaulting toward the goal of disconnection.

This means they should have a habit of doing regular self-checks and relationship checks—what I call “keeping current” with myself and people so that any fear or disconnection is swiftly identified and dealt with. Here are a few questions that should be part of an honoring leader’s habitual self and relationship checks:

“Do I see myself . . .” (self-check) and “Do you see me . . .” (relationship check):

  • pursuing the goal of connection, especially with those closest to me, or have I allowed fear to convince me to start creating distance with anyone?

  • communicating the truth in love to people, or am I either hiding or hurting people with the truth?

  • consistently seeking feedback from trusted sources, or avoiding feedback?

  • being confrontable, or resisting confrontation?

  • taking risks to grow and learn, or allowing the fear of failure or being seen as incompetent to hold me back?

  • needing to clean up any messes?

  • focusing too much on the short-term?

Guarding your heart through self and relationship checks must be non-negotiable for every leader who wishes to avoid the hypocrisy and compromise that so many leaders, most of whom never intend to be dishonoring, end up falling into, with damaging and sometimes devastating results.

The Great Enemy: Disconnection

In his short book, 10 Signs of a Leadership Crash, Stephen Mansfield distills the lessons of the “leadership crash post-mortem” that he and his team at the Mansfield Group have compiled over a long career of restoring leaders after moral or financial failures. He says the ten signs that a leader is heading toward dishonor and destruction are:

  1. Being out of season (sticking with a particular role longer than you know you should)

  2. Choosing isolation (disconnecting from people)

  3. Defining episodes of bitterness (holding on to offenses)

  4. Evading confrontation (surrounding yourself with people who don’t keep you accountable)

  5. Losing trusted friendships (allowing distance to grow between close friendships, or failing to form new connections after loss)

  6. Forgetting fun (not creating time for healthy rest, recreation, and recovery outside work)

  7. Perpetuating an artificial image (allowing your brand or public image to take over your life and never being out of “performance mode”)

  8. Serving the schedule (allowing the demands of structure and operations to eclipse purpose)

  9. Building a third world (escaping from things you don’t want to confront in your life)

  10. Losing the poetry (losing the love and passion that come from a deep connection to your purpose)

(Stephen Mansfield, 10 Signs of a Leadership Crash (Nashville, TN: Blackwatch Digital, 2017).

The theme I see in every one of these ten signs is disconnection— from purpose, people, and practice. Ultimately, it’s disconnection from our own hearts. The moment we become disconnected from our hearts is the moment we start to move toward a crash.

Thus, as this list suggests, we must be disciplined in practices that sustain connection and prevent disconnection. In addition to regularly asking ourselves and our closest friends the self and relationship-check questions above, we should also make sure that we are in the right season, avoiding isolation, quickly forgiving offenses, surrounding ourselves with people who will readily and consistently confront us, protecting and nourishing close relationships, making time for fun, refusing to let our image dwarf reality or duty eclipse purpose, and making sure that the flame of our hearts is still burning for the purpose, people, and practices we get up for every day.

My Goal: A Life with No Secrets

I’ll never forget the conversation in which Wm. Paul Young told me, “I live my life with no secrets.” The very thought of having no secrets was one I had never contemplated, probably because I never knew it was possible. When I heard Paul say that, however, I thought, There is my new goal. Since that inspirational, honest, and challenging conversation, I have been on the path of learning to live a life without secrets.

I have a friend I connect with so regularly that if three or four days pass without hearing from each other, we will send each other a text message asking what is going on. On a recent speaking trip out of the country, my schedule was so busy that I didn’t have a minute to check in with him. On the third day of the trip, I got this text message from him: “It’s been thirty-six hours since your last check-in. You okay? If you have been kidnapped, I can arrange ransom and a rescue party.” I laughed and texted him right back. His next text read, “Shoot. I was hoping to plan a rescue.” Though funny, his text sent the message, “I care about you. I have been praying for you. How are you?”

Friendships like these give us the courage to continue to be vulnerable with each other and keep pursuing the goal of connection.

Resisting the Fear of Exposing our Weakness

One of the greatest challenges for every leader is the pressure they feel not to let their people see them working or struggling at it. As Danny often says, most people love leaders they don’t know. They want the leaders to stay at enough of a distance that they don’t see their areas of weakness, because this triggers their insecurity. In other words, many leaders end up in isolation and disconnection because they listened to the fear coming from their people.

This is why the courage and vulnerability of honoring leaders are so crucial. Honoring leaders must lead by resisting the fear message coming from the ranks and counter it with the message, “True safety comes from telling the truth, not hiding it.” This doesn’t mean a leader should have the same level of vulnerability with their employees that they do with their close friends and executive team, but it does mean the leader should be working to close the distance between people throughout the organization. If they are cultivating healthy intimacy on the executive team, the team will set a standard for relationships throughout the company.

Today I encourage you—press in to connection with God, with your heart, and with your close relationships. Everyone your life touches will benefit!

P.S- If you would like to read the rest of my book, The Business of Honor, it is now just $10 for a short time! Go here and use the code HONOR to receive your discount at checkout!

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