To me and hopefully, most of you reading this article, we'd expect these words to be easy to come by and linked to anyone in a leadership position, but is this really the case? Can we believe our political figureheads provide us with facts? Can we trust everything we read in the headlines to be reliable and unbiased? Can we believe what we see and read on social media from friends and family? If you pay even the slightest bit of attention to current events or only occasionally scroll through Facebook, you know the answer is, sadly, no. In a world taken over by selfishness, corrupt behaviors, and false reality we’re more likely to be faced with dishonesty, lies, and shoddy information. What’s even more disturbing is that this has become expected and to a certain degree accepted in our society. So, where does one go to find reliable information, and what can we do as leaders to combat this trend and make a change?
Do you know how many decisions you make in one day? The answer is 35,000 (www.yahoo.com), and with every decision there's either a positive or negative consequence that comes along after. As these consequences become more significant, you likely need to gather facts and reliable information in the form of data to make a well thought through decision. Knowing that this information can be difficult to find, let’s go through a couple situations a leader might face and the research tools that could be used to assist in making an informed choice.
Where can you find reliable information?
Starting with an example where the decision has minimal consequences, let’s use purchasing a computer for the office. I realize that some people would simply go out and buy the equipment with little to no information. However, given that computers are neither inexpensive or disposable, it’s advisable to conduct research before purchasing. Reliable information sources for this situation would include Consumer Reports magazine, reviews on store websites, or reviews on manufacture websites. Talking to people in IT who are experts in the field would be advantageous as well. Please keep in mind though that all this information has limitations. For example, a number of reviews could be given immediately after taking the product out of the box and could fail to accurately depict the user's experience after more extensive usage. In the case of the IT professional, he or she may only have brand loyalty and their personal bias could affect their overall feedback. This is where it becomes necessary to gather the proper amount of information from various sources to have a collection of data in order to form a solid decision.
Now, let’s step it up a notch and present a situation where the consequences are more significant. A company owner is deciding whether or not to introduce flexibility and allow employees to work remotely. They have little to no experience with this, and the consequence of the decision will have a profound impact on the business and its employees. Where can this owner gather reliable information to make a decision they feel confident in? A decent amount of time should be spent looking at data from other firms that have put remote working into place. Depending on the scope of the business, researching the effects on the employees, productivity, quality, efficiency, and costs might all be appropriate. To accomplish this, interviewing a sampling of employees from other businesses could be conducted. Asking open-ended questions in this format would be an example of a qualitative study (Creswell, Creswell, 2018). A survey with close-ended questions could be sent out to a sampling as well to assist in collecting the data necessary to make the decision. In this case, it might actually be suitable for the owner to survey his/her entire company about their feelings on remote working. This is an example of quantitative research (Creswell, Creswell, 2018). Lastly, if neither of these is a doable option, searching an electronic database, like the one through the library at Roberts Wesleyan, is a great source of information. For this option, the qualitative and quantitative study, or a mix of both, has been completed by other researchers for various purposes, and it would be up to the owner in this case to scour through the multitude of articles to gather relevant data. It’s also advised that peer reviewed articles should be utilized in order to ensure credibility. Once any of this research has been completed, chances are a decision to either lead the organization into the new initiative or not can be made with more confidence.
As leaders, we can’t grow complacent!
Now that I’ve covered ways to find reliable information, I want to move on to how we need to act as leaders in a society where untruths and lies are commonplace. It's actually quite simple. We need to rise above and fight against falling victim to the fallacies. It’s not okay that false; misleading information is everywhere. As leaders we need to position ourselves to present our information confidently and factually, and we can set ourselves up to accomplish this by continuously educating ourselves and collecting data. It may not always be possible to state something as 100% factual, so we need to be honest and admit to it. It might mean we need to confess our biases, disclose that more time or research is necessary, or acknowledge that experts who are more knowledgeable in the field need to be consulted. It’s okay to not always have the answers as leaders, however it’s not okay to mislead people with false information. We also must stand up to those who don't tell the truth, let it be known that we are aware of the mistruths when they’re presented, and work with them to become more honest.
We need to nurture future leaders!
Lastly, as leaders we have fresh young minds available that can more easily be positively influenced as they possess a stronger probability of being unscathed by previous negative encounters with leaders. As more seasoned leaders, we need to take these up and coming leaders and teach them what is right. We need to pour our time and energy into them, mentor them, and lead them by example. I believe that having an experience with a leader who possesses all the positive attributes of a true leader, one worth aspiring to be, can be a turning point for many young followers. They need to experience what it's like to work under a respectable person; to see the difference between right and wrong. If they work for a leader who is honest and takes their interest and concerns to heart when making decisions, then trustworthy, caring leaders will be more prevalent in the future.
Next Steps & Takeaways
I don’t want to come across as being negative, however, I truly believe facts and truth are harder to come by these days and change is needed. My hope is that I have equipped you with approaches to find more accurate information, so that you are able to make decisions you are confident in. I also hope that you take into serious consideration what you can do to break the cycle and strive to always be truthful and factual in your interactions. If given the opportunity, I’d strongly encourage you to cultivate followers or emerging leaders. Remember, changes don’t always happen instantaneously. They often begin with small, sometimes bold, steps taken by one or a few individuals. If we all take a step in the right direction, we have the power to rebuild a society based on truth and honesty.