What are the Secrets to Being a Remarkable Leader?

Who’s your leader?

I have been fascinated for years by leaders and leadership. This has come about for a few different reasons.

As I have moved from the military to academic, then corporate and now entrepreneurial environments, I have experienced a huge spectrum of leaders and leadership styles (or lack thereof…), and have benefited from the journey. Whether I have worked for the best or the worst, I have learned a lot.  Reading about leaders and how they work with their teams and interact with people has been very interesting too. I always enjoy the more comprehensive view into their lives and who they actually were, the god and the bad. that comforts me as a human being, knowing that those who have been placed in these places of leadership suffered from flawed personalities and persevered.

If you’ve followed my last few posts, you know that I’ve been working through the process of creating a vision, a mission, and goals for my business networking chapter. I enjoy the formulation of the vision and the more specific articulation of the mission. The big goals are a pretty natural outgrowth of these two items. It’s the more granular milestones and, that really challenging bit, ‘assigning them’ across the chapter membership that brings the real work of leadership into focus.

I’m mind-bogglingly lucky to have the leadership team I have. They are a lovely mix of new blood and old hands, so each brings unique views, chapter history, and the usual mixed quadrants of personality types and work styles to the table.  None of them think like me, which means that, although we may not reach agreement quickly, we get there with an approach that is likely to get greater buy-in from all of us and is a product of connection. Buy-in is key, since without it you’re pretty much on your own. So how do you gain buy-in?

I believe there are a couple of central factors without which you go on alone. One is communication and the other is connection.

Communication is more than memos and mails. It is more than well-designed and articulated vision, mission and goals. First, I believe it is listening in silence. The silence means the lack of my internal voice providing commentary upon what’s being said and the lack of my formulating a reply or retort while listening. Unless I’m paying attention to all that is said, verbally and nonverbally, I’m not really listening. I must be other-focused, which is much harder and less ‘mystical’ than it sounds. What it does require is a lack of expectation and an openness to the person being listened to…and by “lack of expectation” I mean that I can hear what’s being said without putting my spin on it.  Once heard, an instant response is probably unwise. Communication, even when done right, is imperfect and requires some “sitting with what you’ve heard” before you can move on. I’ve rarely heard an instant, reactive response that was well thought out or even, in many cases, a good idea. How can I possibly have a response to a complete set of thoughts from another human being in an instant?

Connection is about relationships. In John Maxwell’s book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” he calls this the Law of Connection.  He says,
“For leaders to be effective, they need to connect with people. Why? Because you first have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand. That is the Law of Connection. All great leaders and communicators recognize this truth and act on it almost instinctively. You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion.” – Maxwell, John C. (2007-09-16). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (Kindle Locations 1883-1886). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
My business networking group has a construct many in business have followed for many years – setting up one-to-one meetings every week with fellow members of the chapter (and members in other chapters, as desired…). These are meetings with specific agendas around understanding each others’ business, goals, interests and how one person can help the other in growing their business. During these meetings you can dig much deeper into the person, their motivations, and grow that relationship into one by which it becomes natural to refer their business to others (one of the BIG benefits of this organization…). The added benefit is that you gain a clearer view of each other’s values and can go into deeper discussion about what’s important, what’s helpful, and what is not helpful. Maxwell says elsewhere in his book, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The connection is about building that relationship as a real declaration of caring.

So what’s the call to action here?

Be a leader. Communicate by listening in silence. Connect with your peers, your customers, and those you care about.

One last word from John Maxwell:
“…successful leaders who obey the Law of Connection are always initiators. They take the first step with others and then make the effort to continue building relationships. That’s not always easy, but it’s important to the success of the organization. A leader has to do it, no matter how many obstacles there might be. It’s one thing to communicate to people because you believe you have something of value to say. It’s another to communicate with people because you believe they have value.” – Maxwell, John C. (2007-09-16). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (Kindle Locations 1946-1950). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

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