Webster’s dictionary defines “clarity” as “the quality or state of being clear.” (1) A Servant Leader communicates with clarity. In speaking or writing, the leader must be sure that the receiver understands their message. Otherwise misunderstanding, rework and frustration from all parties emerge.
Karen Martin tells us that Clarity is “complete, accurate and easy to understand.” (2)
The opposite of Clarity is Ambiguity. It slows, frustrates, increases risk of injury, complicates and is expensive (slows productivity). It is different from uncertainty. Ambiguity is “the fog.” (3) No one understands the plan and people are trying to make decisions in that climate.
To be a clarifying servant leader, there are two tracks that support this intention:
- Humility means recognizing that you do not know it all, have not seen it all and are not the sole person with that sought-after combination of experience, wisdom and communication skill. Humility means to know you need others in order to thrive.
- Be present, in touch with your feelings. Ask yourself questions about those feelings until you understand what is giving rise to them.
- Ask questions of others until you fully understand their contribution to the discussion, and here is the caveat, according to their intended message.
Clarity clarifying takes time.
- Go slow in the beginning to go fast later.
- Be thoughtful at the beginning but don’t get bogged down in analysis paralysis.
- Rushing to an answer is not a friend. (4)
Jesus, being the embodiment of a Servant Leader, was very clear in His proclamation of the Good News. Jesus’ mission was to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, coming on earth as it is in heaven. Everything He did tied to that mission. In order for the weakest among us to participate in that mission, they have to be strengthened. That is why His followers feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison. (5)
Because the coming of the Kingdom is imperative, Jesus applied these clarity principles in how He taught His disciples. He would ask questions in many circumstances, answer questions from those who asked, even when they seemed stupid. He went slowly in the beginning and He was patiently thoughtful. It took Him 3 years to explain the Kingdom of God to the disciples. Had He run into the scene and just told the disciples, one time, to feed the hungry, etc., and then told them to run as well, they would not have fully understood the scale of the change He was preaching. They needed teaching, practice, and correction. That takes time.
What does the practice of clarity look like? Clarity means using a lot of words to explain a process or plan. It takes time to be clear to others and for you to understand what the other is saying. If you don’t understand something, to be a clarity leader, you should ask more questions. When it seems to become more confusing, then take a clarity pause. Stop, learn more, ask more questions. For complex or difficult conversations, stick to face-to-face conversations, not email or memos.
Clarity is a way to serve those you lead. A commitment to their growth and the success of the mission means that the Servant Leader is obliged to be clear in her instructions to clergy, personnel and volunteers in the parish. Having clarity is a gift. Use it often.
(2) Karen Martin, “Clarity: What it is, Why you Need it and How to Get it.” https://www.ksmartin.com/ Webinar accessed 10/16/18.
(5) New American Bible, Matthew 25: 36-41