One of my professors at seminary used to say that he loved the students at our school, because they would all “charge hell with a water gun”. He meant it as a complement. I had many classmates who were passionate and eager to make a difference in the world. They were willing to go wherever and do whatever to make lives better. There were others, however, who were simply eager to be in charge.
Many people want to lead, but struggle once they are in a position of leadership. A DailyMail.com article found that nearly 40% of the highest paid CEO’s in America had faced action due to poor performance in the past 20 years.1 These leaders were the best and the brightest, and were paid incredible money to bring success to their companies. This trend doesn’t exist only in the highest profile jobs. Leadership breakdowns happen everywhere. While there are a lot of different reasons that leaders fail, one that seems to show up again and again is when leaders fail to recognize the relational component of leadership. Leadership is a relationship, and when it’s not treated as one, it’s doomed to fail. Here are a couple of relational truths that will make you a better leader:
Leadership Means Leading People
There are a ton of great leadership theories. Many great leaders have written books about how they turned around their companies or improved their churches or schools. While these stories are powerful, they can not be blindly applied to every situation. Leadership means leading people. You must meet your people where they are, and to do that you have to take the time to get to know them. What works in one context or setting may not work in another. Knowing how to relate with those you work with will help you understand how to lead them.
Have Honest Expectations
No one’s perfect. You are not and neither are the people you lead. There’s nothing wrong with casting an incredible vision for your company or church, one that seems almost impossible. It’s something else entirely to demand the impossible from your staff or employees. Unrealistic expectations erode confidence and will eventually cause those who work for you to quit or rebel. Be ambitious but honest in your expectations.
Always Leave Your Door Open
A work place is only relational if communication can flow both ways. If you only talk to (or at) your employees, they will soon believe that you don’t care about them and only see them as a means to an end. Be open for feedback. Take time to hear people out. Listening to critiques or the other side of the argument doesn’t make you weak. After you have heard someone out, you may choose to continue on with your opinion, but occasionally you may gain insight that you didn’t have before, allowing you to change direction and be more effective.
Leadership is a relationship, and if you fail to recognize that, your leadership will likely fail as well. Respect and take care of the people who follow you, not only will you win as a leader, but you will be winning in life.