I’ll be the first to tell you that I am still learning.

There’s this misnomer that if someone is a leader they know what they are doing. Same thing with parenting, or any other leadership function. Truth is, we are all learning as we go, on a perpetual learning curve. Forever students. Embracing this has the ability to make us great.

I love to study leadership. Life experiences can be a great source for teaching points. Even as a child I had a knack for this. In fact, my Mom will tell you the day I went to her explaining that I had been analyzing her parenting style. (I was 11 and lacking maturity.) Then, when I worked for others I naturally learned leadership from my experience as an employee. I studied the positive things that provoked me to be a great employee; the things that made me feel valued and part of the team. As well, I naturally studied the things that made me want to bolt and never to return. The same can be true for each one of us: studying and learning from life. What motivates personal greatness, desire to be a team player, creativity and inspiration, or productivity?

One of the keys I have discovered is: Kind yet honest communication is invaluable. Depending on who you are the focus should be on the “kind” or the “honest” part of that statement. Honest doesn’t have to translate to mean, rude, or demeaning (nor should it). Neither is “kind yet honest” a form of manipulation wrapped in some sugarcoated, syrupy, fake-nice type of delivery. No. Kind-yet-honest is real, transparent, vulnerable and affirming. The purpose of kind-yet-honest communication is for the sake of the other person. For their good. Kind is to help people out of their cages when you can see the door is open and they simply need to be told so they can see it. Honest communication is trust building, productive and ethical.

I worked for someone once who was great at his skill but growing as a leader. His deficit was his inability to give honest feedback. I was eager to learn and grow, but never had the feedback needed to know what was good and especially what was bad design. It left me second guessing and insecure, never sure if I was reading the unspoken, between-the-lines silent dialogue accurately. Communication takes words.

Work culture is important for productivity and operational strength. Often times in business consulting I find that a lack of communication, or a lack of honestly, or even that of kindness, as simple as it is, is the source of breakdown. It requires an attitude of adaptability and willingness to grow personally, professionally, and ethically. I would go so far as to say that kind-yet-honest communication is one of the most important keys to cultivating leadership, in yourself, others, and your team. It builds a culture of honor, and breeds security in professional relationships.

Give it a try and share your experiences.