Archive for May 2014

Quotable (Daniel Goleman)

“Socially skilled people tend to have . . . a knack for finding common ground with people of all kinds – a knack for building rapport.  That doesn’t mean they socialize continually; it means they work according to the assumption that nothing important gets done alone.”  (Daniel Goleman, “What Makes a Leader?,” in HBR’s Ten Must Reads on Leadership, 2011)

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership. (2011). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

 

Build Connection

In a recent post, I talked about the importance of relationship and stated, “I believe that effective leadership, leadership that results in personal and organizational change, happens best within the context of relationship.” (April, 2014)  I don’t think I can emphasize enough the role that relationship plays in effective leadership, but that then naturally leads to the question of how relational connections can be established and maintained.  Leadership research has indicated that this ability is important to leadership, and the good news is that there is a simple and basic practice that can be learned and implemented that will help you develop this ability, and it is this:  build connection by finding common ground.

I have often found myself doing this unconsciously when I meet people.  I will ask questions about who they are, their experiences, and their background, and will identify something that we have in common and engage in conversation around that topic.  We may find a similar personal experience, a place that we have both seen or know, comparable work experiences, shared tastes in food, or any number of other things, but any of those topics becomes a connection through which we can begin to relax and build relationship.  As I have thought about my tendency to do this, I have realized that I was influenced to exhibit this behavior by reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) many years ago.  Specifically, I remember simple principles that included:  smile; become genuinely interested in others; encourage others to talk about themselves; and, talk in terms in terms of the other person’s interests.  Because I genuinely care about people, these are principles that I have incorporated into practice long enough that they have become natural for me.  (Please remember, these must be genuine – not artificial – behaviors!)

Daniel Goleman (he of the “Emotional Intelligence” fame) spoke about this when he originally described the characteristics of emotional intelligence in connection with leadership.  In explaining the attribute of empathy, he said that “socially skilled people tend to have . . . a knack for finding common ground with people of all kinds – a knack for building rapport.  That doesn’t mean they socialize continually; it means they work according to the assumption that nothing important gets done alone.”  (“What Makes a Leader?,” in HBR’s Ten Must Reads on Leadership, 2011)  Additionally, the theory of Authentic Leadership espouses the value of this practice, affirming the idea that “authentic leaders have the capacity to open themselves up and establish a connection with others. They are willing to share their own story with others and listen to others’ stories.” (Northouse, 2013, p. 260)  The basic concept is that leadership is more effective when you can listen to others, learn something about them, find common ground, and thereby establish a connection.

So when I say that it is important for a leader to “build connection,” understand that I am not talking about “networking.”  Rather, I am valuing the importance of finding common ground with everyone you meet, a connection that enables you to establish a positive relationship.  Relational skills are essential to leadership, and learning to build connection is a simple practice which develops that skill and facilitates a relational environment.  Be sure that it is genuine, out of a care for people (people can tell fairly quickly if it’s not), and you will find yourself becoming a more effective leader.

Carnegie, D. (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership. (2011). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

 

What Do You Think . . . has been a challenging leadership lesson to learn?

Leadership development is a constant, ongoing process of growth, accompanied by both success and failure.  And in that growth process, I believe that you learn most things by experience – either your own experience or someone else’s, but it’s usually far less painful to learn from someone else’s experience!  Some of those lessons that we learn seem to come easy, but others seem to be difficult to master, whether a result of environment, circumstances, or personal strengths and weaknesses.  In your own development, what would you say has been a particularly challenging leadership lesson for you to learn?  Please share in the comment box below.

Next Generation Leader, by Andy Stanley

Next Generation Leader book coverI first came across Andy Stanley’s “The Next Generation Leader” (2003) a number of years ago when I was guiding a student leadership group through some leadership training.  I had been searching for a resource that I could give to them, one that would be practical and valuable at that age and stage of their young lives.  I found this book, and it seemed to be aimed at leadership development for those who are young and in the early stages of the development process, therefore an appropriate resource for what I wanted to accomplish.  What I found when I read it was leadership value for me that continues to influence my thinking today.

“The Next Generation Leader” presents five characteristics of leadership that are or will be necessary for the next generation of leaders, those who are developing and learning leadership today.  Those characteristics are: competence, courage, clarity, coaching, and character.  Stanley describes and illustrates each of these “C’s” in a fairly simple, understandable, and practical way, with the following basic concepts:

  • Competence – Knowing that you have limited strength, identify your core competencies and apply your energy into doing those things that you do well; where you have weaknesses, delegate responsibility to those who have that as a strength
  • Courage – Progress requires change, and change requires courage, because people will resist; leaders often have to be one of the first to act, even in spite of fear
  • Clarity – Be a confident but humble decision-maker, and seek counsel; the leader cannot eliminate uncertainty, but must be able to be clear in the process of navigating that uncertainty
  • Coaching – First, be coachable / teachable by seeking input and being willing to listen;  then, as a coach, learn to observe, instruct, and inspire
  • Character – Character is the will to do what is right even when it is difficult; your character is more important than your success, because it gives you trust and credibility as leader

These characteristics may seem to be basic, but I found their simplicity to be part of their value for my own leadership.  They were tangible concepts that I could remember and incorporate.  I found benefit in all five, and the first one in particular (competence) became a concept that changed some of my method of leadership.  I would encourage this resource for any new or developing leader, but I would also encourage it as a resource for experienced leaders.  You may find a nugget of truth that enhances your own leadership!

Stanley, A. (2003). Next Generation Leader. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Publishers.