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Connecting to Lead

Jackie S. Martin – A Matter of Motivation, LLC

My first job out of college was with a Savings & Loan (I just dated myself), the by-gone dinosaurs of the financial world.  The C-Suite on the top floor was filled with suits and ties, while everyone else wore navy and burgundy polyester uniforms (now I am really dating myself).  The strongest, most feared leaders followed the old code of leadership by power and position.  Swagger, bravado, or strength are all labels that accompanied that authoritarian leadership style.

Many of today’s leaders (including myself) were weaned on that type of leadership and now struggle to find good role models to emulate.  Transitioning to a more effective leadership style can be daunting, so training and coaching can become vital tools. Even Steve Jobs had a reputation of being tough and dictatorial with his subordinates at times.

Even though we know that disconnected, authoritarian leadership doesn’t work anymore, it’s hard to find what does work and how to make the changes needed.

Today the best leaders use the Law of Connection.

Author, speaker, and leadership guru, John Maxwell, wrote one of the leading resources on leadership, “The 21 Laws of Leadership.”  Among other critical leadership laws, like the Law of the Lid and the Law of Magnetism, the Law of Connection focuses on the relationship between leaders and those they lead.

Zig Ziglar said, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  But how much do you need to care, and how do you show that without losing your credibility as a leader?

According to Maxwell, the stronger the relationship and connection between individuals, the more likely the follower will want to help the leader.  “You develop credibility with people when you connect with them and show that you genuinely care and want to help them,” says Maxwell. “And as a result, they usually respond in kind and want to help you.”

Here are FOUR ways to build that connection:

  • Connect with Yourself – People are inevitably drawn to leaders who have confidence in themselves and where they want to lead. Leaders don’t need to know everything, but they do need to have a vision and the energy to move people toward that vision.
  • Connect by Communicating – Be genuine and authentic with your communication, because people can smell a phony a mile away. Be real – warts and all.  Why try to hide your faults from the people who know them all anyway?  Since, in the absence of information, people always assume the worst, good leaders communicate clearly and often – even when the news is bad.  “More is more” when it comes to open communication.
  • Connect to Your Belief in Them – Sincerely believe in your team. If you can’t truly believe in the individuals on your team, then you might have the wrong players on the bus.  Communicate to them how valuable they are and how much you believe in them!  You might see things in them that they don’t currently see in themselves, and your belief in them can build a connection and loyalty that can last a lifetime.
  • Connect to Offer Direction and Hope – “Leaders are dealers in hope,” said French General Napoleon Bonaparte. Leadership also denotes movement.  People are following you because you are going somewhere they want to go.  Provide them the vision, the hope, and the steps toward the future they desire.

One other law to remember as you build connections is the Law of Process.  Building the trust and cconfidence we seek in a relationship takes time – it’s a process.  It might start as easily as a conversation about family, sports, or school alma maters.  By simply spending time with those on your team, you can build personal rapport, paving the way for a deeper connection.

Research shows the number one reason why people leave an organization is the relationship with their boss, and the number one reason why they stay is the relationship with their boss!

The power of the leader today is in the relationship, not the title.  The time, effort, and focused energy spent connecting with those you lead makes all the difference in your own success.

“Don’t ever underestimate the importance of building relational bridges between yourself and the people you lead,” instructs Maxwell.  “There’s an old saying:  To lead yourself, use your head; to lead others, use your heart.  That’s the nature of the Law of Connection.  Always touch a person’s heart before you ask him for a hand.”

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