Leading With Leaps of Faith
I am going to ask you to have faith in me at the outset of this article. I’m going to ask that you have the faith to stick with me to the end—in spite of the fact that early on you will see a reference to the 19th century philosopher Kierkegaard.
For those of you who made it to the second paragraph, thank you for your show of faith. You may have believed in me because you’ve read and liked an earlier article I wrote. You may have stuck with me because you have faith in the editors of the Business Monthly. There’s also the small possibility that you were a philosophy major in college.
Kierkegaard coined the phrase “a leap of faith,” writing that true faith means jumping from one mindset to another—a leap from skepticism to faith. Faith is all or nothing—you can’t have faith in someone and also be a little bit skeptical about them.
We are afraid of the word faith. Its connotations are either too religious or too touchy-feely to belong in a magazine with the word “business” in the title. In our increasingly complex, technical and measurable world the concept of faith may seem out of place. But it has never been a more relevant strategy for a leader who wants to:
- Inspire employees to achieve their highest potential
- Create a dynamic corporate culture
- Embed a philosophy of customer service excellence
- Develop trust, loyalty and engagement
All it takes is a leap of faith.
The essence of leadership is found in those who show faith in others. Leading with a leap of faith means that you are willing to believe so strongly in someone or something that your belief becomes a reality.
Sound risky? It is. Some people will fail. Some people will let you down. Part of having faith is being tested. If you’re sure of the outcome, you don’t need faith.
Leading with faith doesn’t mean showing blind faith*—you have to do your homework. Then you have to trust your vision for the future based on knowledge, awareness and evaluation of potential; for example, making a high-potential employee the lead on a big project, even though he or she hasn’t been a project leader before. Although there is risk, you have information to evaluate the person, the project and the variables.
Following are five strategies for leading with leaps of faith:
- To gain trust show trust: Faith begins with trust, and to achieve more than you expect you must risk more than is comfortable. That means you are willing to give without expecting a favor in return.
- Write it down: Even faith requires documentation. Be very clear about what you are offering and that you agree on what success means.
- Look – leap – don’t look back: Make sure they have the resources to succeed—including your time and commitment. If your leap of faith means giving someone the authority to make a big decision, make sure you keep the faith.
- One leap at a time: Be deliberate in the leaps of faith that you take and give people time to see the results and draw their own conclusions before you take the next big jump.
- Never lose faith: People will make mistakes. Mistakes are good. People learn more from mistakes than they do from success. Showing faith in someone who has made a mistake may be the most powerful way to earn their trust, loyalty and faith in you.
You can lead an entire company or a single person with a leap of faith. At first you may feel a little uneasy, but leadership at the highest level involves trust at the highest level— and that requires a little faith in yourself.
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Bob Metzger works for Accident Fund
Insurance Company of America.