“Faith is taking the first step, when you don’t see the whole staircase” – Martin Luther King Jr
As a young professional, many years back, I remember joining a team which was brought together to resolve a crisis in the organization. The problem seemed insurmountable, but our leader seemed to have absolute confidence that the team will do its’ job. After a few months of a ‘rollercoaster ride’, spending nights in the office and literally ‘doing the impossible’, we managed to avert the crisis. One late evening, I sat with the leader, as he described all the ‘extraordinary’ efforts the team had put in and I ventured to ask him how did he know that the team will succeed, when things were seemingly hopeless. He candidly replied that he had no clue how this would turn out. The only way was to ‘repose faith’ on us and put in his best effort.
In the corporate world, ‘faith’ is not really a progressive word. Due to various reasons, we relate it to religiosity and God. In our daily lives, we are more worried about ‘blind faith’ and its repercussions. Showing skepticism, asking questions, considering options are seen as good leadership qualities.
So does faith (shorn of religion and/or God) have a place in our work lives?
Faith has been defined as ‘trusting in something you can’t explicitly prove’…. This sounds dangerous but despite ourselves we repose our faith on numerous people and things all the time. When I board a plane, I am having faith on the flying skills of the pilot whom I have never met. When I eat out in a restaurant, I repose faith on the chef who is an unknown face. I drive my car every day and repose faith that the incoming cars will brake if we are on a collision course. Of course, while putting faith on the quality of my cars’ engine, brakes and safety equipment.
Is faith more than just ‘being confident’ about someone or something? Maybe yes.
There are times when things start going wrong, and we start losing confidence in our abilities. We start doubting the team working with us. There is nothing to show, and no reason to be confident that we would deliver. At such times, faith could be that ‘small voice’ in the back of the head, reassuring us that this very team will eventually deliver the promised result.
There are innumerable stories of leaders who ploughed through difficulties, standing strong with their teams, demonstrating unflinching faith in their capabilities…..literally raising themselves, their teams and organization to new heights.
I believe faith is more than just ‘being confident’ or assured of someone or something. It is a deep intuitive feeling that ‘things will fall in place’. It’s manifested in the behavior of the leader and connects deeply with his team at a level beyond logic.
Some of the common behavior of such leaders are
- An optimism and energy in every interaction
- Work hard, striving to give their best
- Respect people and lavish compliments
- Manage conflicts productively
The leader demonstrates a caring attitude, even while laying off people, shifting to more appropriate roles or taking tough decisions. We could call this ‘visionary faith’, which could move ‘corporate mountains’…..Yet, it is easier said than done.
So where does ‘blind faith’ end and ‘visionary faith’ take over? When do we shed the skepticism, doubting capabilities, laying off ‘incompetence’ and bring in vibrant faith that success will be achieved?
I believe there is no such distinction. Either there is faith or it is not there. Its presence brings in a positive approach to every aspect of work, whether it is conflict resolution, fighting competition, driving change, asking people to go or selling off businesses. The faith brings in an ‘internal locus of control’ which allows us to think without fear and take the best decisions in the moment. The team members who resonate with that faith grow with us while the rest drop away amicably.
Every outcome, every person and every process deserves some faith to be reposed on it. Only then would they flower to their full potential.
Extraordinary things happen only when we move beyond ‘hope’, ‘confidence’ or ‘surety’ to deep abiding faith in the success of the outcome….moving like a juggernaut to iron out all challenges.
Today, every organization is facing bigger challenges of shifting consumer mindset, new technologies, shorter product lifecycles and shrinking bottom lines. They are continually on a treadmill of management practices, applying new concepts hoping to beat the trends.
In this mad rush and sense of urgency, there is a vacuum of trust and confidence in their teams. They are reducing head counts but also losing ‘heart counts’ in the process.
Corporate leaders would have to imbibe the skill of ‘faith’ and learn to use it effectively, unleashing its power to motivate the team, synergize effort, and achieve success.