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Doing this one thing changed everything about how I lead.
I stopped thinking about leadership as a role with responsibilities and started treating it as a relationship.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “you don’t need a title to be a leader.” And that’s true, but we still too often think of leadership as a position that comes with power, authority, and control.
However, at its core, leadership is about building and sustaining relationships.
Your leadership success hinges on your ability to form strong relationships with your team — both one-to-one with those closest to you and one-to-many if you’re leading a large organization.
And the thing about relationships is that they’re dynamic and built on mutual trust, respect, and understanding. At work, our relationships center on creating a shared vision and working together to achieve common goals.
Know the three universal needs of employees
To start, you must understand the needs and motivations of your team; the truth is that employees don’t want to show up just to take orders. They want to feel confident in their ability to execute their roles. They want to have a say in how they invest their time and energy, and they want to feel connected to those around them. These universal needs — competence, autonomy, and relatedness — are grounded in research by psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci in their work on self-determination theory.
For me, one particularly difficult experience shook up how I’d thought about leadership up to that point. Nearly 15 years ago, half of my team quit in a coordinated walkout. The shock and hurt of that experience fundamentally changed how I viewed leadership and what was important to me in my career. Since then, I’ve devoted my professional development to figuring out the kind of leader I want to be. For me, the answer is a leader who views my position as a relationship — not a role.
Put building and sustaining relationships first
In a relationship, you know everyone is different and that people respond differently to different approaches. You take time to get to know each team member on a personal level, to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and what motivates them. And when the size of your team makes individualized attention impossible, you create a second team of like-minded people to cascade the importance of trust and respect for all.
Relationship-based leaders create an environment where people feel safe and supported. When people feel valued, they are more likely to be committed to the team’s goals and work harder to achieve them.
Stay committed, even when it’s hard
Building and maintaining strong relationships is not always easy, and it requires effort and commitment. However, the benefits of effective leadership are clear. When leaders invest in building relationships, there is increased motivation, engagement, and productivity.
Thinking of leadership as a relationship is a shift that changed everything for me.
When I started building meaningful connections with team members, work felt easier because there was less resistance. We were able to put more of our issues and concerns on the table, look at them, and fix what was broken.
You can avoid the painful experiences I had by embracing the belief that relationships are at the core of your success, then invest time and effort into building and maintaining them. By doing so, you’ll create a more productive and engaged team and a stronger and more successful organization.
Will this approach work with your clients?
At Mystery Shopper Services we take the relationship approach with our clients as well. We like to work in a business partnership atmosphere and that is best achieved by having both parties contribute to the success of a project. To collaborate one needs to contribute verses compromise in which both parties need to give up something. Taking this approach has helped grow our business in the mystery shopping market but also with social media tracking, reputation management, internal audits and market studies just to name a few. We’d like the opportunity to collaborate on your next project. Give us a call.
BY ROBIN CAMAROTE AND CARL PHILLIPS