I consider myself to have a fairly high emotional quotient. I don’t shy away from conflict or avoid difficult conversations. However, my wife and I have an ongoing disagreement about who should have “the talk” with our eldest as she approaches that critical age. I believe my children should be able to talk to me about anything. I also believe that certain subjects best remain with the parent who is best equipped to address them. While I have been told I have no choice by the boss, I’ve held onto the hope that when the time comes, true wisdom will prevail. A couple of weeks ago I was catching up with one of our longest supporters, a fellow dad, about a decade ahead of me whom I respect immensely. We were trading updates about families and he was talking about how his youngest daughter was heading off to college and how they have the best conversations. “You have got to give me the playbook,” I commented, hoping to turn out to be half as good of a father as he is. He said, “It’s simple. Don’t ever let there be something you won’t talk about." Without knowing my position, he went on to explain that he always initiated conversations, especially the really awkward ones. “As soon as you insert space, it just expands, and pretty soon the list of things you won’t talk about is longer than the list you will.”
As I thought about his advice more, I realized how applicable it was to leadership. While my conversations don’t involve the same subject matter, how often do I decide “not to go there” with someone whom I lead, collaborate, or serve? Do I recognize the proportional relationship between the length of what’s off limits and the limits of trust? Does it get easier and easier to just avoid rather than to engage? In leadership and discipleship, how close is the space between what’s “appropriate” and what’s “comfortable?” If it’s too close, I might be further away from fulfilling my potential than I realize.