I was pleased that Spotlight won the best picture award at the Oscars last night. Though I didn’t see all the films nominated, it was the best one I saw. And I could relate to the story on many levels.
Having grown up Catholic, I instinctively understood the difficulties these young men would have faced raising the issues of improper behavior on the part of the priest. In that day and age, the idea would have been unthinkable and not believed by anyone. And as a person with many gay friends and family members, I can empathize with the profound guilt of carrying a secret, then burying it somewhere it cannot be discovered or explored.
At the time of the investigation, I was working in Boston and I clearly remember the struggle between the press and the Archdiocese. In largely Catholic Boston, it was controversial, divisive, and all together, disturbing in so many ways.
There are some great lessons in this movie, told via a script that was bold and daring and by actors who played their roles with distinction. This is a story that needed to be told. Here are some leadership lessons that can be gleaned from the movie—and the story:
The role of a leader – first and foremost – is as a role model. The leadership of the Catholic Church failed badly here, both in its initial response and in the subsequent cover up and finally, in its dogged determination to keep the truth from the world at large.
Authenticity is a powerful and critical leadership attribute. Leaders need to be true to themselves—and transparent—not just because the truth has a way of emerging but because it is the right thing to do the right thing.
Having the courage to pursue truth and justice, even in the face of so much pressure, is another of the things that differentiates great leadership. Bravo to The Boston Globe for digging to find the story behind the story despite the considerable effort to squash it.
Taking responsibility for one’s actions is essential to leading effectively. Admitting to mistakes, failures, lapses in judgment—and being human—goes a long way toward building trust and confidence in others. Not to do so is a sign of weakness.
In leadership, there are always at least two choices, often more. Sometimes we get fooled into thinking there is no choice, but in this story, there were many turning points where church leaders could have made a different choice, instead of digging in deeper and deeper.
I realize this may be a controversial issue for many—and I appreciate that. I would love to hear your thoughts. I know some people who refused to see the movie because they preferred to remain in denial of this painful story. I get that.
For me, the story needed to be told. And I applaud the cast, directors and producers of Spotlight for telling it with such impact.
Do your team members trust each other? How do you know?
Here are 7 signs that indicate there may be trust issues on your team. If you notice any of the following behaviors, working to increase trust is a must for you, as a leader:
Team members hide their weaknesses and mistakes from each other
They hesitate to ask for help or to offer it.
They neither seek nor provide helpful feedback to each other.
They jump to conclusions or make assumptions about each other’s intentions.
They fail to recognize and tap into others’ skills, experiences or perspectives.
They judge each other unfairly.
They hold grudges or avoid each other.
Without trust, team members fail to participate in the kind of constructive dialogue and debate that leads to the best solutions. And without a willingness to engage in constructive conflict, it is difficult to gain the level of commitment and buy in to important decisions that need full support of the team.
Without full commitment, it becomes difficult to establish a level of joint accountability among team members because everyone is tied to their own idea.
Holding people accountable becomes the sole responsibility of the leader. This is not only terribly inefficient, but it also breeds politics. And so it becomes a vicious cycle of non-trust.
Cohesive, high-performing teams build trust as a foundation to the kind of teamwork that creates a competitive advantage for the organization.
As a leader, knowing how to increase accountability among your team members is an important ability.
Members of cohesive, high-performing teams hold one another accountable, and they don’t rely on the leader to do so. Asking the leader to be the primary source of accountability is really inefficient and it breeds politics besides.
It is far more effective when team members go directly to one another and give frank, honest feedback.
How do you establish this kind of peer-to-peer accountability? It is actually part of the continuum of building a cohesive, high-performing team, and there are three prerequisites to achieve this level of accountability:
There needs to be a high level of trust among team members. This means they must be willing to be transparent and honest with one another, willing to openly admit mistakes, ask for help, and apologize easily.
Team members must be willing and able to engage in constructive conflict. This includes open, unfiltered passionate debate about issues and ideas of importance to the team and organization. Only team members who truly trust each other are able to do this well.
The ability to achieve commitment. Once team members have had an opportunity to share their different ideas and opinions without reservation, they are far more likely to buy in to a collective decision.
When everyone on the team is committed to a clear plan of action, they will be more willing to hold one another accountable. Embracing this level of accountability will lead to bigger and better results in your organization. And as a leader, this level of teamwork makes your job easier and more enjoyable.