You can go to Amazon and search for Leadership books and over 35,000 paperback titles come up. There are thousands of blogs on the topic. Yet I watch people with impressive titles fail at the fundamental of basic leadership: relationships. Why? It’s an identity issue. Who you are is not your title, but if the title is the only thing giving you your self-worth then your tenure in that title will be tumultuous and short lived.
What is the output of an insecure ‘leader’? Lots of rules, policies and processes in place that help give the leader a sense of worth but burden the team, nor help the team achieve it’s goals. If you are creating a policy or setting a standard, the litmus test for that policies worth is this question: How does it help my team be successful? If you can’t find a good answer, then check your motive. Only reason to trump this litmus test is if safety is involved.
I’ve sat in meetings where “expectations” were laid out by a higher authority. And as I read through the pages of “expectations” my only thought was “they can’t lead people out of a burning building!” None of the expectations were going to help me lead my team of people. These expectations created an unnecessary bureaucracy. When you set rules and expectations without getting to know the people and their needs, you have a control problem. Nobody willingly follows control freaks.
How do you move from being a ruling leader to a relationship leader?
- Develop an identity that is separate from your title: work is only part of your life. What else are you? Define who you are and what you want to become. Start working towards that.
- Acknowledge your insecurity: we all have areas of insecurity. But an insecure identity is an identity that’s always striving for something (approval, acknowledgement, power or control). Aim to get comfortable in your own skin. This takes time as in years of experience. It’s a journey so don’t get frustrated. But start now.
- Get comfortable with lack of control. I believe the higher up you move in an organization the less control you have. So building high performing teams needs to be your priority.
- Place connecting with team members as your highest priority
- Accept the creative tension that comes with building relationships with the team and still hit your deadlines. Push back on your leaders as your attempt to build relationships with people and the appearance is that little work is being done.
- Set in your mind and heart that you have much to learn from your team and they from you
In part 2 I will go over how to build relationships with your team members while doing all of above.