The demagogic hot head may catch attention—for a while.
But soon he will burn his staff out.
Relationships. The concept keeps appearing in one way or another. If we fail to pay attention to the importance of authentic human connections, we do so at our peril. Relationship development is not a soft skill. It is very much an essential skill.
A recent article about leadership lists ten characteristics that successful and likable leaders possess. As you read the list below do you see a common connection?
- “Form personal connections
- Are approachable
- Are humble
- Are positive
- Are even-keeled
- Are generous
- Demonstrate integrity
- Read people
- Appreciate people
- Have substance.”
Relationships connect each of the above items. You will find empathy in there as well (see #6, 8, and 9). A leader—or anyone for that matter—with these characteristics has a human face. She is not a manipulative, power-hungry and insecure person looking to secure her turf.
People with these characteristics make you feel like you’re the only one in the room (see #6 above). As with anyone leading a group, workshop or team, it should never be about the leader. It should always be about the audience—the people in front or behind the leader.
Some may read the above list and say it’s too “soft” as a real leader has to get results and that requires tough action and bottom-line thinking. Being “likable” has nothing to do with leadership success this logic may suggest.
Well, if a leader has integrity he knows that performance and quality must be present. His work models what he wants his followers to emulate. He won’t get that by constantly barking at and demeaning team members (antithesis of #1, 2, 4, and 9.). Oh sure, the demagogic hot head (antithesis of #5) may catch attention—for a while. But soon he will burn his staff out. They will be reluctant to take chances or be creative. They will fly under the radar for fearing of being cajoled and embarrassed (antithesis of #6 and 8.)
Reflect on this for a moment. Think of a time you worked for a tyrant, or, at the least, a thoroughly disagreeable boss. Perhaps this person disregarded you as a person and treated you as an expendable part in a larger piece of soulless machinery. Can you truthfully say that each morning when you awakened you said, “Gee, I can’t wait to get back to work for more belittling and distress!”?
In the Career Playbook: Essential Advice for Today’s Aspiring Young Professional, James M. Citrin notes that relationship building is a key skill to entering, maintaining, and thriving in a career. You may have heard people talk about “being a fit for a company’s culture.” According to Citrin, “this means that, if you’re interviewing for a job, the interviewer will be assessing you partly on the basis of personal relationships. Do they like you? Do they sense that they can trust you? Do they feel comfortable around you?” (p. 45)
I learned this lesson years ago when sitting on a college screening committee. We eventually forwarded the top finalists to the campus president. He told the committee that the major consideration for him, when he had his meeting with the candidates, was whether or not he could get along with them. In a word, relationships.
Video recommendation of the week. In this short clip, Citrin reminds us about the importance of building great relationships.
Think about leaders you have followed—and have followed gladly. And think about people you lead. How do you treat them?
Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.
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