Effective leaders are relationship masters, period. I honestly have to say that if I had to sum up the leadership wisdom of my 23 years of corporate experience, it would be that successful leaders know how to effectively navigate the sometimes murky waters of professional relationships.
Call it “soft.” Call it “HR stuff.” The bottom line is this; leaders who cannot effectively manage themselves in the presence of others will ultimately not be that successful in their careers. In the business setting, as with any environment, no amount of IQ can make up for relationship savvy.
Even the smartest leaders are not prepared for the emotional side of business. Too often when someone assumes a new leadership role, they also assume that the people they’re working with will be level-headed, even-keeled. The problem is that they are often wrong. Most organizations and groups have a maximum level of emotional reactivity running through them.
This means that sometimes people will not be responding thoughtfully, but emotionally. Outbursts of anger, conflict avoidance, gossip, back-biting, passive-aggressive resistance, all could become the norm surpassing what was once the exception.
People–and the organizations they comprise–are a complex mix of mind, body, spirit, emotions. Too many leaders forget this and think that they’re working with computers. They completely negate this powerful, unpredictable, emotional force called the “human factor.”
Instinct alone will not be sufficient to manage relationships effectively. For the select few, their immediate responses to these kind of emotional relationship reactions might be the best response. But that is not always the case. Even the most seasoned leader must begin by stepping back and observing not just themselves, but the system. They literally become students of their own and their group’s behaviors. The effective leader’s first response is to think about what is going on without reacting to it immediately.
It’s not about “fixing” other people. It’s about managing yourself first. Somewhat ironically, the highest impact action for effective relationship management is to manage yourself first. Our natural inclination as a leader is the belief that we have to get people to do what we want them to do. We think it’s about them, not me. In this instance, I’m talking about you, the leader, taking responsibility for managing yourself and your reactivity in the presence of others….especially when the heat is on and the emotional reactivity in the group is high. You always start with yourself.
So, two simple to take-away:
1) Be aware of the complexity of the human factor as you are not working with machines;
2) Recognize that the foundation for effective relationship management begins with you, managing yourself first.