No Relationship, No Leadership

Have you ever heard the saying “It’s lonely at the top?” It’s been said so often that some people in leadership positions actually believe that it should be lonely at the top. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. The real truth is this: if you’re a leader and you’re feeling lonely, you’re most certainly doing something wrong. I hate saying that so strongly but that is a fact.

You should absolutely not be lonely, you should be the most sought out person in your organization. Maybe not the most popular because authentic leadership is anything but a popularity contest, but your people should be seeking you out regularly with questions and ideas. 

If you don’t have regular, daily conversations with the people you lead it could well be that you’re lacking real relationships with them. When a relationship isn’t present it becomes very hard for a leader to demonstrate that they care for and value the people they lead.

If your people get so much as a hint that you don’t care about them as people your opportunity to truly lead them will be lost. 

Authentic leaders make building real relationships with their people one of their top priorities. They are intentional about it. They will literally schedule time into their day to “relationship build.” They get out their office and seek out the people they lead. Authentic leaders know that their success is completely dependent upon the success of the people they lead. Authentic leaders invest time with their people to ensure their people’s success. Authentic leaders celebrate the success of their people as much, or more, than their own. 

If you’re a leader you should know that your people value a relationship with you as much as they value recognition, promotions and often, even pay.

That relationship doesn’t have to extend outside of the work environment but it does need to be robust enough for them to know, without a doubt, that they are valued for what they do and who they are.

A leader’s relationship with their people needs to be “real.” As a leader, you need to know something about the people you lead. You can’t lead someone effectively until you know something about them. You can’t demonstrate that you care about them unless you can first demonstrate that you actually know them…. as a person. 

Some of the people who read this will think to themselves “I don’t have time for this relationship crap” and to you I would say this: 

If you don’t have the time to build real relationships with your people then maybe, just maybe, you don’t have time to lead.

23 thoughts on “No Relationship, No Leadership

    • Thanks Amy, sometimes we get so busy we forget that people matter more than anything else.

      Most of the stuff on my blog is really a note to myself, I just let other people see it in case they need a reminder too! 🙂

  1. Great post Steve. I chuckled when I read your line “Some leaders say I don’t have time for this relationship crap …” because those are the leaders who are blindsided with low employee engagement and high turnover. Some see the light after that and others sadly .. don’t.

    This post speaks so well about the value of people skills and the reasons to continuously improve. I applaud your focus here and invite you and everyone to join the Google+ PeopleSkills community where we build bonds of success!! We also have a Twitter chat every Sunday morning Hashtag: #Peopleskills!

    Kate (aka The People-Skills Coach™)

    • Thanks Kate, sadly many “leaders” forget that leadership is ONLY about people. Everything else is just management.

      You’re right on that some leaders eventually figure it out and some apparently never will.

      The good news is that blogs and TweetChats like yours can be a big help. YOU make a difference!

    • Thanks Tom. Leaders really are the sum of their people, nothing more, nothing less. Everyone in a leadership “position” would do well to remember that at all times.

      I personally forget it too often.

  2. Excellent message. My current boss (and his boss) have no relationship with the folks below them. I can’t tell if it’s intentional or they just lack the know-how. Regardless, our group doesn’t function well and this is a primary reason why. Many thanks for a great article.

    • Thanks Bob. I had people in leadership positions tell me “they don’t need a relationship with people who work for them” because they have plenty of good relationships outside of work.

      When I explain that the relationship isn’t “for” them but for their people I get a deer in the headlights kind of look. Some truly don’t understand the value of a relationship.

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