Are you paying enough attention to relationships? For those in highly relational fields such as ministry, that may seem like a silly question. For leaders, however, it’s crucial to think strategically as well as personally about relationships. To succeed, leaders must be well-connected to the group and to key individuals within it. A leader’s presence is as important for moving forward as his or her vision. No relationships means no leadership.
Pay extra attention to this part of a leader’s work at key times in organizational life. When you begin a new position, obviously. When you want to undertake a new initiative. When a crisis hits (but don’t wait for a crisis!). It can be time-consuming to stay connected, but it’s time well-spent.
You need some self-knowledge to stay in touch in a way that helps everyone. For example, what do you do when people disagree with you? Avoid them, or fight back? We all have automatic patterns in relationships, learned from our families. The more thoughtful you can be about yourself, the better you will do at relating to others.
Is it manipulative to think about relationships strategically? Perhaps, if that’s your only motivation. People sniff out phoniness in a second. Leaders need a genuine interest in others. But leaders also need a head above the crowd, to be able to survey the group and its context and thoughtfully consider what is best for all.
Here are some tips (and paradoxes) for considering how you are connected as a leader:
1. Spend the most time with those who are emotionally mature BUT don’t avoid those who are reactive. Work on your own reactivity to this second group.
2. Stay connected to those who disagree with you BUT don’t chase after people trying to convince them of your point of view.
3. Spend time strategically connecting with key people for the sake of your goals BUT be authentically interested in them while you are with them.
4. Pay attention to others and their responses BUT put most of your attention on yourself and your own response. You can’t control them, only yourself.