Being A More Connected AND Successful Leader
Leaders – what makes them successful? When I ask what makes a leader great, I get a list of wonderful characteristics, all of which are important. However, being “connected” is rarely a part of that list. In order to lead, others must follow. And people who feel disconnected from you are unlikely to follow.
God created humans, including leaders, to operate in community and to be interdependent. Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, your success as a leader is impacted by how connected you are to yourself (self-aware) and to the people you lead. Yet when talking with leaders, I frequently hear things like…
- I’ve never felt so alone.
- I have no one to talk to or to bounce ideas off of.
- Disconnected, I just feel so disconnected.
- I feel isolated.
- It’s exhausting – I feel overwhelmed – I’m the only one who seems to care.
Maybe you’ve had a few of these feelings yourself! Isolation is a tough place to be and you might be in that place if you are experiencing any of these warning signs:
- Unable to trust others
- Experiencing ongoing stress
- Fearful or anxious about losing control
- Feeling overloaded or burned out
- Unable to let your guard down or be vulnerable
- Feeling unsupported
- Being unavailable
- Feeling misunderstood
- Unable to own your mistakes
- Feeling like you are doing it all
- Feeling disconnected or distant from others
If you want to be a strong leader, be a connected leader. Disconnected leaders are fragile, while connected leaders have far greater influence! And isn’t that what leadership is all about?
Ready to be a more connected leader?
1. Detect The Disconnect
Once you detect the disconnect, it’s time to pinpoint the misconceptions that have led to that disconnect! After all, your actions as a leader follow what you believe. Here are some common leadership misconceptions:
- Leaders are authoritarians and in control
Truth: Leaders are servants
- Leaders must have all the answers
Truth: Leaders must know how to ask questions and encourage collaboration so that the best solutions surface.
- Leaders have too many responsibilities to make connecting a priority
Truth: Connecting actually saves time in the long run because it cultivates trust, creates a more cooperative atmosphere, and when people feel connected, they are more willing to go the extra mile.
- Leaders have to be perfect
Truth: No one is perfect! Authentic leaders who are able to own their mistakes and take responsibility for them are respected leaders. And the example they provide creates an environment where others are more likely to own their mistakes.
- Leaders should keep their distance and not show emotion
Truth: Leaders are humans and humans have emotions. Leaders feel frustration, anger, disappointment, joy, love, happiness, and more. While allowing your emotions to take over and run wild is not appropriate for a leader (or anyone else), it’s also just as inappropriate to pretend you don’t have emotions or to push them down.
- Leaders are authoritarians and in control
As a leader…
it’s important to be aware of your emotions and express them to some degree, even if don’t share everything you are feeling. When you hide your feelings, you hide the real you and it’s nearly impossible to trust someone you don’t know or aren’t able to connect with. And it’s tough to lead people who don’t trust you.
Maybe you don’t see yourself as a leader, but leadership is not dependent on a title. No matter what your role is, you have the potential to influence and lead and you are able to do that more successfully if you are connected.
Maybe you are a freelancer or solopreneur. They are leaders too! According to Statista, there were 60 million freelancers in the US in 2022. They make up 37% of the workforce. Freelancers and solopreneurs are especially vulnerable to feeling disconnected.
2. Connect to the Creator
It’s easy to let the never-ending demands of leading, life, and work get in the way of regularly connecting with God. While it doesn’t make logical sense, spending time in His presence actually saves you time! Not only did God create you, He understands you like no one else does! He knows what you need. And He longs to connect with you, really connect with you!
Living and leading from that connected place transforms the way you do everything.
3. Ditch Your Comfort Zone
Connecting with those you lead might feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. Those are honest feelings! However, the reward to creating a bridge to your team – that’s priceless! Not only does it cultivate trust, it encourages your team to be more cooperative and improves morale. A happy team is a more productive team!
And if you don’t have a team, it’s worth branching out and connecting with others in a similar position. You might be surprised by the boost you get from those connecting moments!
Ditching your comfort zone takes effort. Set a goal and be intentional about doing the everyday actions required to reach that goal. For example, schedule 30 minutes each day to mingle with your team members, walk the floor, or reach out to virtual team members. No agenda – just connecting and getting to know them a little better. Or set a goal to have lunch with a team member or peer once a week. Small steps towards greater connection yield big rewards.
4. Cultivate Conversation
A curious leader is a more connected leader. Ask open ended questions. Invite feedback. Make it safe for those you lead to share their opinions and to disagree with you. It makes a huge difference when a team member feels heard and understood.
If you are a freelancer or solopreneur, invite conversation with other freelancers or solopreneurs. Be willing to learn and be challenged by them.
5. Serve Your Team
Ask your team often “How can I help? Let them know you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and help.
And remember to let them know ways that they might help you too! Being connected is not a one-way street – it’s reciprocal!
6. Expand Your Circle
Whether you lead in a for-profit or a not-for-profit organization, a ministry, or just lead yourself, expanding your circle and rubbing shoulders with other influencers is beneficial. It’s a chance to be exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking and you will also have the opportunity to develop new relationships with peers and leaders that have the potential to be valuable connections. What networking organizations, groups specific to your line of work, or groups that cater to a particular interest, such as hiking or cars, could you join? It doesn’t have to be all business!
7. Keep Learning
Making space in your life to take courses or attend conferences is yet another way to spend time with others who have similar interests or are in similar lines of work. Beware…it’s also possible to participate in courses or attend conferences and never connect with a soul! You must be intentional about connecting.
8. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
A void or lack of communication is always perceived as negative. Keeping an open line of communication with those you lead is vital! Take the time to keep your team informed. Listen. Ask questions. Communicate often and well. Communicate in a variety of ways including in person, by phone, and in e-mails. The more you communicate, the more connected you and those you lead will feel.
9. Work With A Coach
A coach offers a safe space for you to slow down, reflect, process, and sort through challenges so that you are able to be the connected leader you desire to be. They are also able to help you formulate a strategy that creates more margin in your life so connecting is possible.
What’s keeping you from connecting with those you lead?