Why relationships have never mattered more for leadership



For a very long time, leaders were able to lead because they were at the top of a kingdom. They were part of the Royal Family or belonged to a high social class…


But over time, our society moved towards an organizational model. Businesses, non-profits, schools, hospitals, universities, and charities sprang up everywhere. Under the kingdom model there was only one pyramid which could not be climbed, but with the rise of the organization, there were now thousands of pyramids which could be climbed through skill & hard work. Leadership was about being able to lead the organization which you were a part of…


And although this model very much still exists, social media has changed everything. Now it’s possible to be a leader without leading an organization. Yes it’s still possible to lead by climbing to the top of the pyramid, but now it’s just as possible, if not easier, to lead by building a network…

Organizations + Networks

For this reason, relationships have never mattered more for leadership. They are an extremely significant element of organizational leadership, but they are all we have when it comes to leading through networks.

So what are the essentials to relational leadership?

Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, believes that the key to relational leadership is to consider the four ways in which we interact with people.

Our most common way of dealing with people is actually to ignore them. For the most part, unless someone is doing something wrong, or annoying us, or we have a need to interact with them, we don’t pour energy into the relationship. To some extent, this makes sense. We can’t pour time and energy into everyone. But when we continually ignore people and their actions, especially when they are helping us achieve the vision, we will find it very it very difficult to lead them.

The only thing worse than ignoring someone is to constantly give negative feedback. Unfortunately many of us find it incredibly easy to be critical. Ask people for feedback, and they will immediately focus on telling you what’s wrong. Many leaders spend their time ‘catching people doing something wrong’.

Negative feedback brings about short-term, external results. The results are only short-term because over time, the negative feedback makes people feel like giving up. No matter how hard they try, they will never be good enough. The results are external, because negative feedback doesn’t change people’s hearts and minds. It drives people through guilt and fear. As soon as the negative feedback is removed, the person will go back how they once were.

When someone does the wrong thing, or isn’t getting the desired results, rather than give negative feedback, Ken Blanchard argues that we should redirect them. Redirection involves simply ignoring the negative, and redirecting their energy onto what’s working. He states: “the more attention you pay to a behavior, the more it will be repeated… if you don’t want to encourage poor behavior, don’t spend a lot of time on it

He goes onto say that when someone is failing in an area which is integral,  we can either direct their attention back to the original task & give them another chance to get it right, or we can direct their attention toward something else we want them to do that we know they enjoy and can do well. Once the redirection has taken place, all we need to do is observe them and take the first opportunity we can to ‘catch them doing something right’.

Blanchard’s tips to redirection are as follows…
> Describe the error or problem as soon as possible, clearly and without blame.
> Show its negative impact.
> If appropriate, take the blame for not making the task clear.
> Go over the task in detail and make sure it is clearly understood.
> Express your continuing trust and confidence in the person.

Ken Blanchard believes that the key to great leadership is to constantly ‘catch people doing something right’. The best leaders are proactively going around from person to person trying to find something to celebrate. And it may be that they celebrate the actions of people who are not successful. The key is to praise progress.

A parent doesn’t wait until a baby can run a marathon before they praise them. Rather they celebrate the first step. They are constantly on the lookout for improvement. They praise progress.

Blanchard’s tips for praising progress are as follows…
> Praise people immediately.
> Be specific about what they did right or almost right.
> Share your positive feelings about what they did.
> Encourage them to keep up the good work.