Relationships – The Key to Successful Leadership
By Doug Dickerson
If you think your family has problems, consider the marriage mayhem created when 76-year-old Bill Baker of London wed Edna Harvey. She happened to be his granddaughter’s husband’s mother. That’s where the confusion began, according to Baker’s granddaughter, Lynn.
“My mother-in-law is now my step grandmother. My grandmother is now my step-father-in-law. My mom is my sister-in-law and brother is my nephew. But even crazier is that I’m now married to my uncle and my children are my cousins.” From this experience, Lynn should gain profound insight into the theory of relativity.
That humorous story is a way to illustrate something that in leadership is actually not too funny at all. In order to be an effective leader on any level, you have to develop people skills and good personal relationships.
Leadership expert John Maxwell says, “One of the greatest mistakes leaders make is spending too much time in their offices and not enough time out among the people. Leaders are agenda drive, task focused, and action oriented because they like to get things done. They hole up in their offices, rush to meetings, and ignore everyone they pass along the way. What a mistake! First and foremost, leadership is people business.”
Allow me to share with you three important reminders about the importance of relationship building.
First, people are your priority. When it comes to your leadership and influence in your organization, you can’t accomplish anything without your people. How you treat them is a clear indication of the value you place in them. Don’t be like the group of friends who went out hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight-point buck.
“Where’s Harry?” he was asked. “Harry had a stroke of some kind. He’s a couple of miles back up the trail.” “You left Harry laying there, and carried the deer back?” “Well,” said the hunter, “I figured no one was going to steal Harry.”
Sadly, many in leadership make the mistake of treating their people like poor Harry and are more concerned about the product. They fail to remember that they would have no product were it not for their people. If you are locked in your office, isolated away from everyone, it sends a clear signal that you don’t value them. When you do this, you are leading from the position of a title – nothing more.
In leadership, people are your number one priority. And when you treat them that way, they won’t let you down.
Second, relationships are your future. Longevity in your organization is tied to how well you nurture relationships today. Nurturing relationships involves a deliberate plan of action on the part of the leader.
This action begins within your organization by how you value relationships. If people in your organization are treated with respect and a conscious effort is made to build a team atmosphere, the possibilities of your organization are limitless.
In his book, Bringing out the best in People, Alan Loy McGinnis says, “In the simplest terms, the people who like people and who believe that those they lead have the best intentions will get the best from them. On the other hand, the police-type leader, who is constantly on the watch for everyone’s worst side, will find that people get defensive and self-protective and that the doors to their inner possibilities quickly close.”
The best thing you can do as a leader is to understand that the future of your organization and your career is tied to successful relationship building. It begins inside your organization and flows out.
Finally, if people are your priority, and relationships are your future, then friendship is the pathway. Samuel Johnson once said, “If a man does not make new acquaintances as he advances through life, he will soon find himself alone. A man should keep his friendships in constant rdpair.”
Friendship is the recipe that transcends the boundary of business and stands the test of time. I’m reminded of the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black to play major league baseball.
While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.
A wise leader understands the value of friendship, of coming along side a co-worker and putting an arm around a shoulder. A wise leader values, nurtures, and fosters friendships.
A strong leader is a relationship builder.
© 2009 Doug Dickerson