Being a leader in today’s economy is looking a little different than it used to. What makes a leader? Are we leaders only because we have others reporting to us or because we are in charge of a specific department? Are we leaders because we have a vision for the future that no one else seems to have yet? Is it possible that the answer is that we are only leaders when others follow? After all, how can we call ourselves leaders if no one is following us or the initiatives we need and to have their support for when we turn around? A leader is someone who inspires others to want to help.
A leader today must be a follower tomorrow in our networked, matrixed, dotted-lined, ever-changing organizational systems, and vice versa. As a result, we are not leaders solely because of our titles or responsibilities, nor are we leaders alone because we have a future vision. Our capacity to connect with others in such a way that they want to help us is what distinguishes us as leaders.
The following story was shared at a conference and really resonated on how a personal connection to someone can make a far reach. An email was sent in from a new colleague. This colleague required information, which was easy to give. However, the colleague must have taken the time to study information about the person they were emailing before seeking the information, because the email began with a brief, professional introduction before swiftly turning personal. They complimented the person on the birth of their first child (could there be a more effective approach to catch the attention and inspire help?) and then shared a few sentences about their experience with parenthood, as well as their best wishes for the new family.
The email definitely left an impression. What if everyone communicated this way? Adding personal touches to someone and being genuinely interested in their life shows that we are more than just colleagues going about our day to day activities that are required in every job.
Despite the fact that everyone is busy at work and has a list of tasks that need to be accomplished, receiving this kind of email, in this circumstance, the request was read and dealt with immediately.. Why? Because there was a sense of connection—a very real, human connection—with someone that had yet to be met with or even spoken to. Everything in life it seems is digital and online. We seem to be losing our working relationships and working with bots more and more. So getting a personalized email made it seem as if this new coworker was an old budd. Therefore it would be someone who would instinctively be moved to the top of a priority list! As a result, the colleague was able to get the information they required faster than other people who had made similar requests. They also developed a relationship, so that if they ever needed to work with one another again, they both knew each other and would process the requests quicker.
Of course, simply inquiring about family when you do not care is insincere and will only serve to detract from whatever bond you are trying to build. Today’s leadership is seldom as simple as “do this or don’t do that.” It all comes down to building a connection. This necessitates truly thinking about the other person: who are they? What is their preferred method of working? What would they value the most (i.e., what would make their day easier and/or more enjoyable)? It is about taking the time to try to comprehend another’s world before operating more fully within it. This may entail sincerely inquiring about another’s family, or it may entail getting right down to business (so as not to waste time when you know someone dislikes social chit-chat).
Many of us are overburdened by the demands of our jobs and family, and we unintentionally pass this stress on to one another. After all, it does have to go somewhere, doesn’t it? However, we are merely shooting ourselves in the foot by doing so. We injure ourselves in unseen ways when we treat people badly—a chilly or harsh tone, an unneeded cc to a colleague’s supervisor, or ranting behind another’s back rather than honoring the connection by having the real topic openly. We may be perplexed as to why we were passed over for a promotion or why working with a colleague’s coworkers is usually a chore. Despite this, we fail to see our own role in the circumstance. If we want to make our lives easier, we just need to be friendlier, more consistent in our responses, and eager to assist.
When it comes to doing business, our ability to connect and form connections takes precedence over many other criteria. A lot of data demonstrates that individuals just prefer to work with somebody they like, and that they will sometimes choose a nice person or firm over one with more qualifications or a better product. Take the time to consider your own personal and professional lives, as well as your purchasing habits.
Today’s leadership entails working exceptionally well with and through others. Our ability to interact with others is becoming increasingly important as our organizational environments evolve. Every encounter we have either adds to or subtracts from a connection. When what we do detracts, it means more work for us and fewer supporters—those who are eager to help us and, as a result, follow us and the initiatives we want and need to support.
So, here’s something to think about: how likable are you? How willing are the people with whom you work the most to advocate for you? How many people respond positively when you ask for help? How many people genuinely care about you? These are important topics to think about because today’s direct reports could be tomorrow’s employer or client. Working with people who have your back and are willing to help, makes your work life so much easier.