Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.

Proverbs 21:23

Have you noticed the increasing value people are placing on “transparency?”

Transparency can be critical to building trust with the people you lead. Your employees want and need to know where they stand with you.

And yet…

In some moments, full transparency can undermine trust. Leaders are only human. Just like everyone else, we have thoughts and feelings and perceptions that, if shared at the wrong time, could knock the feet out from under the people we lead.

The art of transparency needs to be balanced with the art of leaving things unsaid. To reach your full potential as a servant leader, you must learn to master both. After all, you’re not just developing skills. You’ve stepped into the responsibility of cultivating souls, a far more subtle and sophisticated process.

A higher standard applies to you, and to your words.

Here is how you meet this higher standard, and stop yourself from speaking words that could break down instead of build up your people:


When you are feeling the desire to be transparent, ask yourself why.


There is a time and a place to speak your mind, as a leader. And there is a time and a place to keep your thoughts to yourself. The difference lies in the emotions driving your desire to speak up.

Too often, leaders speak their minds too soon. And when they do, it’s typically because they are feeling fearful or frustrated. And their focus is really on themselves.

Every leader has fears and frustrations that keep them up at night — even the most faithful of servant leaders. It’s part of being human.

You fear that you won’t be wise enough, smart enough, or energetic enough. You get frustrated when your best-laid plans unravel. And when employees don’t perform up to their potential, you feel frustration and fear. You’re frustrated that they aren’t contributing what you know they were built to contribute and you’re fearful that you don’t have what it takes to help them break through.

All of these fears and frustrations are natural for leaders.

When you’re feeling these emotions, be a closed book, for a little while. Leave your fears and frustrations unsaid in the short term. Give yourself permission to process your emotions in private, through leaning on Jesus and reaching out for the support of a trusted friend or coach.

Then step back into your role as a leader — strong and supportive in helping others work through their frustrations and fears.


Ask yourself, are you putting others first?


Once you have processed your negative emotions, you’ll be in a better place to ask…

What can I say and do to speak directly to their soul – not as an employee, but as child of God?

What would Jesus say?

Jesus was always far less interested in what people had done than in who they were; less interested in who they were than in who they would become.

Ask yourself, what would Jesus say to ‘this’ person at this time to draw out the very best they have to offer? Your honest assessment of your employees is relevant. But, it’s less relevant than God’s assessment.

Do not be transparent about your doubts; only about your desire and expectation for their growth. Lay that foundation of belief, support, and accountability.


Ask Jesus to guide you in what to leave unsaid.


On any given day, there will be more you wish to say as a leader than you actually should. With most of the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions that cross your mind, you can easily discern the difference. But every now and then, you pause…

Would this be helpful for me to say, or not? Will this light the fire, or extinguish the flame?

In these moments, when you don’t know what to say and what to leave unsaid, lean on God’s insight. God knows the people you lead better than you ever will. Go to Him. Ask Jesus what He would say — and what he would keep to Himself – to support His children to heal, grow, and fulfill their God-given potential.

Do this, and feel the difference in your leadership. When you offer the right words at the right time, you don’t just serve your people – your nurture them.

At this time, the world needs nurturing.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

~ Ephesians 4:29