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For many, thinking of leadership as a relationship is difficult. Too many people consider leadership a position, a role to play. Yet leadership is much more than the day-to-day activities you partake in to run your organization.
Let’s take a surface level look at the relationship between leadership and relationship and then dig deeper.
John Maxwell has a famous quote. Maxwell often says:
Leadership is influence ‒ nothing more, nothing less.
When I frame leadership as influence, I begin to think about influence and what influence means.
What Is Influence?
This is a great question to ask. You need to realize what influence is before you can get into the meat of “Leadership is influence.”
A quick search for the definition of influence returns the following result:
Influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone …
Can you really impact the character, development, or behavior of someone if you don’t have a relationship with someone? This is the essence of leadership according to John Maxwell and this is why leadership and relationships intertwine.
How Leadership Is a Relationship
Since leadership is influence and influence requires a relationship, you can extrapolate leadership is a relationship. You’re constantly interacting with various people. From vendors to customers to employees, you’re coming into contact with people all of the time.
With each of these interactions, you’re building a relationship with these people. You may share a bit about your weekend with your vendor or a customer may share a family situation with you.
You begin to grow closer to these people and begin to care about their lives.
This is a relationship! Whoa!
And like any relationship in life, you have to find ways to nurture the relationships that are important.
You have to treat vendors well. Pay them on time and they’ll treat you well. Go above and beyond for a vendor, and you’ve got someone on your side when trouble comes.
You have to treat customers well. Give them what they ordered and in a timely fashion. Create a product that’s better than they expected or create an experience that blows their mind? You’ve moved this relationship to a raving fan.
You have to treat your employees well. Compensate them fairly and treat them with kindness. They’ll recognize the value you see in your mutually beneficial relationship and knock out great work.
Leadership is a bunch of relationships you have to work on. You have to take care of the various people and relationships happening inside and outside of the organization.
When you realize the power and impact you have on those around you, you begin to realize how many relationships you have and how they’re impacting the bottom line.
Be aware of this as you’re leading. Leading isn’t strictly about getting the job done. Leading is about building relationships.