As a Networking Coach and Business Consultant, I am all about making connections and bringing people together for their benefit. I enjoy seeing people’s lives changed by connecting with someone else to help them grow either personally or professionally. Networking is all about relationships too. The most successful people in life, I believe, are focused on what they can give and how they can help others succeed. Over the years I developed into a leader through relationships. I never considered myself a leader for a long time. But somehow, people started following me and so it began. Leaders rise to the top.
If there was one word to describe leadership, what would it be? As I considered what my topic involving leadership would be about, what kept coming to me was relationship. At first I was puzzled and I wasn’t sure how the two coincided let alone belong together. Then I asked some folks in a networking group that I lead, how they would describe my style of leadership. They agreed my style is Relational Leadership.
Relational Leadership is defined as a process of people together attempting to accomplish change or make a difference to benefit the common good. It values being ethical and inclusive as well as acknowledging the diverse talents of the others in the group. Relationships are key to leadership success.
There are many styles of leadership, however, as I researched the topic, I discovered that Relational Leadership is a real thing. There is a lot of information out there on the topic. This definitely surprised me. Why? You may ask. I’ve been in the business of sales and marketing for quite a few years. Early on in my career, I was trained in the old school style of selling you may also be familiar with. Then, I stumbled onto a book by Jim Cathcart entitled “Relationship Selling” and it turned my sales style around and my career soared.
My first true experience with leadership I would have to say is all the way back to high school. Up until my junior year, I had no idea I was a leader at heart, but one of my friends and classmates, Eddie Daniels saw my gifts. Eddie was a leader in several school groups including President of the Spanish club and very active all around. I was heavily influenced by his ability to lead by simply being himself and seeing the gifts in others, myself included. At the beginning of our Senior year, he challenged me to run for President of the Spanish Club. I said ‘no’ more than once. However, he persisted, put my name on the ballot and basically gently pushed me to stand up and be the leader he saw in me. I won and now look back at that time with gratitude that someone recognized my gifts and ability to lead and inspired me to make a difference.
So many leadership types over the years, decades and even centuries has been determined by a pecking order. This structure may be necessary in some types of businesses but I believe we are coming to a time that a relationship style of leading will be at the forefront. Yes, there will always be a “boss”, someone who is in charge of course. But most people will more readily follow someone who has their best interest at heart; someone who doesn’t use them as a stepping stone.
A true leader is down to earth, humble, open to others thoughts and ideas. Leaders don’t become leaders if no one is following. Leadership by definition assumes someone is following. They are open to others ideas, thoughts, and innovations. They aren’t threatened by someone having a better idea, a better plan. They embrace it! Relational leadership brings out the best in others that are following by allowing them to think for themselves and have someone respect and appreciate them.
Another trait of this type of leader is that of accountability. They are willing to be corrected and learn from their mistakes. They take ownership of both the good and the bad. That’s how we learn and a relational leader is open to change. They are good communicators as well and their followers know what is expected of them. This style of leader leads by example when they take responsibility for their success and failures.
Adaptability is vital in all relationships. Life and circumstances come at us, but how we adapt is what matters. Do you react or respond? As a leader, we want to be responsive, not reactionary. Reactions come from outside forces; external factors and we choose to either have a knee jerk reaction or respond by thinking things through and having our internal guidance be our compass. In other words, stop and think about it before acting.
Leaders are to be encouraging and inspire those who are following them. Leaders who continue to grow will inspire their followers to do the same. They will also help those they are leading to rise above them and be leaders. You’ve probably heard if you’re not growing you are dying. In many ways that is true. It is important we aspire to grow beyond our current abilities and use our talents to change the lives of those who look up to us. These types of leaders are not concerned about sharing the spotlight so to speak. They want to see others be their best and do their best.
A true leader leads by example and inspires people regardless of a title. A book I read recently explains how everyone is a leader in some way. Relational leaders get to know people for who they are. Just by being themselves, authentically and genuinely they help lead others to do the same. Lives are changed and people are brought together. Connections are vital and necessary for life, growth and business.
Here are some final thoughts on Relational Leadership for your consideration. Some additional components to consider are inclusion of people and diverse points of view. We value the differences in people, their opinions and perspectives. As this type of leader we empower those who follow us to utilize their strengths and gifts. We are to be ethical, driven by values and standards in leadership which is “good” or moral in nature.
There is so much more that can be said about this topic, however, that’s where you come in. To be a successful leader, take some time to research Relational Leadership. It will be worth your time and effort and many will benefit.