How Do Leaders Connect?

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Over the past few years, I have been conducting an experiment.  In an effort to really understand why some people seem to be “natural leaders” and some “just do not have what it takes to lead”, I put myself on the road to figure out what it means to connect as a leader.

The Challenge

While most people would have been tempted to simply interview a number of trainers, speakers, and other business leadership gurus for a consensus vote, that just is not my style.  I opted, instead, to throw myself into the fire.

Since June of 2009, I have led well over 200 days of training, literally, around the globe.  This experiment has taken me from Lakeland, Florida to the Pacific Northwest; Toronto, Canada to the islands of the Caribbean Sea; and, my adopted hometown of Houston, Texas to a tour of cities across the great continent (and country) of Australia.

During that time, I have led thousands of people to a better understanding of topics sadly lumped into a category called “soft skills”.  Soft skills are what makes a leader a leader.  In essence, there is nothing truly “soft” about soft skills.  In fact, trying to lead teams without an understanding of soft skills is…well…in a word; HARD!

Today, I proudly announce, I have found the Holy Grail of Leadership, identified the Common Denominator of Successful People, and boiled it all down to a single act you must commit your entire life to mastering, if you want to achieve true success at every level.  That word is “CONNECT”.

The Breakdown:

con·nect [kuh-nekt] verb (used with object)
(from dictionary.com)
1. to join, link, or fasten together; unite or bind
2. to establish communication between; put in communication
3. to have as an accompanying or associated feature
4. to cause to be associated, as in a personal or business relationship: to connect oneself with a group of like-minded persons;
5. to associate mentally or emotionally

Not a bad definition.  And while definition #4 above seems closest to what I found to be true, here is the culmination of my extensive research on leadership, and what it takes to be successful:

Creative Commons photo from FlickrC reate

O pportunities for a

N ew

N ormal of

E nergized

C ollaborative

T hinking

Be honest with yourself.  Take a moment and identify someone who has, at some point, taken a direct interest in your professional development.  Perhaps this person has  served as a mentor for you (formally or informally). They may be a person who, if they asked you to attempt to achieve almost any goal, you would gladly give it a shot.  How did they CONNECT with you to earn your loyalty and respect?

Not since a playground game of “Follow the Leader”, have you been able to dictate that people to follow you.  Stop acting like it is an entitlement you have “earned” by “paying your dues” (You should hear what my colleague Karen McCullough can teach you about getting over THAT ” old way of thinking”-seriously, hire her to speak for your group and mention this blog posting- THAT would be an example of CONNECTion!).

The Challenge:

Tomorrow Today I challenge you to:

  1. Call a meeting with your entire team (or work group, if you haven’t created a real “team” yet)
  2. Ask each of them to pull out a piece of paper and list (anonymously) the top three aspects THEY admire in a leader
  3. Collect the responses and end the meeting.
  4. Take the answers into a room by yourself, list them on a piece of paper.
  5. Try to find ANY attribute they have listed that could not be somehow improved, if you were to work hard and create opportunities to set a “new normal” of energetic, creative thinking among the group you aspire to lead.

If you change your ways FIRST, those around you will reward you with loyalty, respect, and more measurable (and profitable) results than you could EVER DEMAND them to achieve. What are you waiting for? CONNECT!

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