how leaders can build better relationships

By michelle m. smith, CPIM, CRP
Leadership

“In the very near future, organizations will be held together by mechanisms of connection and commitment rooted in freedom of choice, rather than systems of coercion and control. The exercise of leadership is inversely proportional to the exercise of power; hence, the most productive relationships are, at their core, mutual partnerships,” says Jim Collins, in a chapter he wrote for Leading Beyond the Walls.

Leadership is predicated on relationships and the ability to mobilize others to accomplish a vision, goal, or task.

Leaders increase their capacity – the ability to get more done – through delegation combined with follow-through. They set expectations, get the best people to do what needs to be done, and oversee relationships to ensure that destructive or self-interested behaviors don’t subvert the common purpose.

3 Shifts Leaders Need to Make to be More Effective

Collins offers suggestions on how to build these relationships and successfully make the transition from command and control. Here are three ideas adapted from his chapter.

  1. Be subservient to the organization’s core principles

Every great organization is characterized by dual actions – preserve the core and stimulate growth.

Core values and purpose remain fixed, while operating practices, cultural norms, strategies, tactics, processes, structures and methods continually change in response to changing realities.

Leaders that best adapt to a changing world know what should not change – they have guiding principles around which they can more easily change everything else. They know the difference between what’s sacred and what’s not, between what should never change and what should be always open for change, and between what they stand for and how they do things.

  1. Build connection and commitment rooted in freedom of choice

You can’t just establish shared values and common purpose and expect everything to hold together – you also need tangible mechanisms that foster the commitment required to produce results. This model requires a heavy up-front investment in selecting the right employees.

Don’t try to mold employees to be what they’re not. Find, attract, and select employees who have a predisposition to sharing the organization’s core values, and create an environment that consistently reinforces those core values, buttressing it with mechanisms of connection and commitment.

If you select the right people in the first place – and they select your organization – you don’t need to control them. Most managers under-invest in the selection process and then try to correct for bad choices through control and micro-managing.

  1. The exercise of leadership is inversely proportional to the exercise of power

Every workplace relationship is rapidly becoming a joint venture.

The best and most innovative work comes only from true commitments freely made between people in the spirit of partnership, not from bosses telling employees what to do. Leadership can’t be assigned or bestowed by power or structure – you’re a leader if and only if employees follow your leadership when the have the freedom not to.

As employees become increasingly comfortable with ambiguity, they’ll trade the single-job model for a multi-job model, thus granting to any single organization or leader less power over their lives and livelihood. We see this in Millennial workers now – they aren’t less loyal, but simply granting less power to any single organization.

Leaders confuse subservience to power with loyalty to a cause. They need to cultivate the latter and relinquish dependence on the former to be effective.

Categories: Leadership

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By michelle m. smith, CPIM, CRP