The Law of Connection
Recently I joined the John Maxwell Team of trainers, coaches and speakers. In studying the material, I came across one of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership that deeply resonated with me: The Law of Connection. This law states that you cannot truly lead people until you connect with them.Great leaders don’t keep all of their followers at arms length; they hold them close to their heart. I was very lucky that I had several great mentors that taught me this early.
An example of this concept that cemented my belief happened several years ago. The company I was working for decided to do reviews for the management group which consisted of anonymous surveys given to the entire team as well as the peer group and senior managers. If you have never experienced a review like this (many times called a 360 review), it can be gut wrenching. Looking at yourself from all angles and opening up to criticism from those that know you best will be your finest and worst day all rolled into one. But it is so worth it. One of the most prevalent comments on my summary sheet was my true caring for the well being of my team members. The quotes were things like: He always asks about my wife and kids before discussing anything business. Another was: I feel like he truly wants to help me achieve my goals including my personal ones. My team members stayed with me for less money than they could have received elsewhere, worked harder than they probably had to and made sure I always looked brilliant, not because they had to or were afraid of consequences, but they did it for me. They did it because they wanted to. If I asked for extra time or effort, it wasn’t an issue. If I was in trouble, they saved me. All because I showed them I cared first.
The hard part is making it happen. Yes, some people do it more naturally than others, but if you want to be a true leader, you must have intent in everything you do. I challenge you to invest the next week in trying to get to know those around you better. Ask questions like: Is there anything I can do to make your job/life better or more fulfilling? What does your spouse think about our company? What do you hope to achieve in the future? There are many variations on these questions and you will have to expect that if you don’t normally ask these, you are going to have to fight through some smokescreen answers. However, if you really want to know, you will continue to ask and they will feel your sincerity.
Once you have the information, if that is as far as you go, you would have been better served to not ask the questions. Resentment will set in. At least up until now, you had the excuse of ignorance. Take the information and write it down. Plan with them every time you meet to improve the situation or work towards the goals. Take a vested interest in the advancement of their lives, without expectation of return. You will be paid back in one form or another I promise. This goes for customers, coworkers, vendors, family or any other relationship. Showing interest in the other person’s well being is key; trying to give more than you receive. If all of us were in an arms race to make those around us better, think of what the world would look like. Instead, many of us try to drag others back down to make ourselves feel better.
Leadership involves effort. You don’t just step out on the battlefield one day and have an army behind you. If you are truly leading them, you will have earned it through your actions over time. You can’t be assigned, given or assume true leadership through a ceremony or title. A manager, owner, CEO, president, etc. is not necessarily a leader at first. This ties directly into another of the 21 Laws: the Law of Process. Leaders aren’t microwaved, they are slowly simmered over a long time. But that’s another article.