On our way home from our annual Christmas trip to the Smoky Mountains (started this year!) while we were singing Christmas carols for three hours at the top of our lungs, I asked my typical question: “What was your favorite part of our trip?” I expected my daughter to say visiting the aquarium, swimming in the heated pool, attending a show, shopping at one of three outlet malls (oh, wait, that was my fave!), eating the great food, or walking through the streets amongst the sea of beautiful Christmas lights. Instead, her response was, “Being with my family!” She proceeded to elaborate – “When I was a little kid (as if she were no longer little), I had a dream of a mommy named Eve, a daddy named Charlie, and a brother named Gentry – and they all looked like you. When I grew-up my prayers came true!”
It occurred to me that my 4-year old daughter gets it. Even Oharah’s teacher told us she’s often the class leader befriending everyone along the way. She understands the key to great leadership; management via relationship – what I consider MOST IMPORTANT! If you don’t put the people you lead before your purpose, you’re not leading to your fullest potential. It took me a while to learn this vital lesson, after I failed, failed, and then failed some more.
When asked by a very successful businesswoman and volunteer coordinator at my recent Team Building workshop, “Why should I get to know my team members? Aren’t I supposed to send out schedules, make reminder calls, and organize my teams, only?” This is a common misconception and a popular reaction. We spent 20 minutes on this discussion, but to sum up my response, leaders can’t afford to get caught up in administrative tasks. You’re most effective when you have time to encourage, support, shepherd, connect, vision-cast, and interact. This builds trust, loyalty and community among those whom you’re leading and you.
It’s seems insignificant, maybe even unimportant, but it’s the best part of the job. Recently, I had lunch with four of my female team leaders. We never talked “shop.” Instead, we had in-depth conversations about marriage, kids, faith and life’s challenges. I want my teammates to know that I first care about them and choose to do life with them. Completing tasks are easier when they know their existence means something to the organization and me. Here’s great news – it’s the best part of the job. Forced leadership is overrated; building authentic relationships is much more inspirational, rewarding and fun!
If you feel relational leadership is over-hyped because it’s too “nurturing” and “feel good” and leading shouldn’t be about popularity, than frankly, you’re missing the point. Unbeknownst to you, without it, you may unintentionally discourage, deflate, and dispirit workers. Take time to spend time with them and let them know they’re more than just a means to an end result. No matter how much money you earn, how much power you possess, or what job title you obtain, if you’re missing this mark, you’re not where you COULD be.
By the way, the inquisitive volunteer and Company VP recently contacted me. She started using this philosophy in her business, enjoying the relational part of her volunteer duties most of all and feeling more “helpful and fulfilled!” In other words, she can relate, now can you?