Discussions of leadership often resemble Dicken’s novel “A Tale of Two Cities”. What usually comes to mind are a recollection of extremes; the best of leaders and the worst of leaders. Consider yourself for example (really do this): First, think an excellent leader that positively impacted you. Next, think of a terrible leader that negatively impacted you.
Finally, think of the best mediocre leader you ever knew. The first two are usually no problem for most people. The last one is kind of hard to come up with, isn’t it?
The reason it’s easy to remember the best and worst leaders is because they make an indelible emotional imprint on our souls. Excellent leaders do so positively because they excel at relationship management.
What It Is
Relationship-management (or social-management) is the coming together of the first three S+EI abilities or skills in a way that allows you to influence others. It’s your ability to use the awareness of your emotions and those of others to successfully manage interactions among people…even those you don’t like or who are difficult.
It’s most easily recognized in a leader as the masterful ability to persuade, resolve and collaborate. And it’s more than just being charismatic or friendly, although many leaders come across that way because of their ability to resonate with others. Daniel Goleman says in it’s simply “friendliness with a purpose: moving people in the direction you desire.”
What they have
Successful leaders nearly always have the IQ and technical competencies to be in the game…but these are only the “ante” or admission ticket, if you will. A high level of relationship management is what sets the best of leaders apart from the rest. These leaders seem to have a “6th sense” for finding to common ground among diverse people, organizations and even cultures.
Leaders with a high level of relationship management embody and consistently demonstrate the following competencies (modified from Primal Leadership, appendix B):
- Inspiration- they create resonance and move people with a compelling vision or shared mission.
- Influence- know how to get buy-in, are persuasive and can engage both individuals and groups.
- Develop others- show a genuine interest in and knowledge of those they work with and are natural mentors or coaches.
- Change catalyst- recognize the need for the change, challenge the status quo, and champion the new order. They don’t take no for an answer when they believe in something and they remove obstacles for others.
- Conflict management- they openly acknowledge and even welcome conflict, get the voices in the room, surface perspectives and reframe to find the common ground on which everyone can align. They then redirect the energy toward a common ideal or goal.
- Teamwork and collaboration- can get others to enthusiastically commit, build a shared identity, esprit de corps and friendliness by modeling respect, helpfulness, and cooperation.
What they do
Leaders, by definition, get their work done through others. They’re do this effectively through the confluence of the other three S+EI domain competencies in a way that becomes a visible expression of the fourth domain: highly effective relationship management. Leaders high in relationship management ability:
- Are passionate about who they are, what they do and who they lead
- Manage themselves, others and their teams well
- Motivate, collaborate and ask powerful questions as well as tell
- Know how to appeal to and move with both emotion and reason
- They persuade from a strong “Why” and don’t manipulate
Finally, these leaders build trust, bonds, rapport and develop a broad relationship network…both professional and personal. These attributes enable them to get other people to adopt their values, vision and mission as their own and then go get stuff done…the right stuff, the right way, with the right people.
How would you rate your relationship management ability as a leader? The first thing you need to do is make sure you have others who willingly follow you. Otherwise, as John Maxwell says “your not leading your just taking a walk.”
As with the other 3 domains of S+EI, you can take a swag or actually measure your relationship management ability. Getting feedback from others using a simple conversational 360 feedback approach is tremendously helpful but obviously not for the thin-skinned or faint of heart. Regardless, you need to know where you stand if you plan on intentionally growing your ability, which is a requirement if you want to lead others at a high level.
What’s your best next step here?