Those who lead through relationships have an interest in others. They are aware of their impact on others and conscious of their needs. Hidden leaders who display relational leadership use their interpersonal skills to make emotional connections with those around them. This ability to make a personal connection is one of the keys to leadership. Hidden leaders build emotional connections in three critical ways:

  1. They pay attention to others. Hidden leaders have an ability to focus on others and give them their undivided attention. This creates a sense of connection.
  2. They make an effort to connect. By reaching out to others and including them in discussions, hidden leaders create an atmosphere of collaboration and teamwork.
  3. They time conversations to coincide with their own positive moods. Hidden leaders understand that is it best to have difficult conversations when they are emotionally able to do so.

Emotions can have a significant effect on coworkers and teams. It is easy to feel tension when someone comes to work in a terrible mood. Conversely, a coworker’s enthusiasm for a project can lift the spirits of the whole team. Hidden leaders use this emotional influence to their advantage. They use positive emotions to build confidence, optimism, and excitement in others. They inspire positive emotional energy. By taking an interest in others and making that emotional connection, hidden leaders build loyalty, enthusiasm, and trust.

While possessing strong interpersonal skills may seem like a natural attribute, such skills can be developed through training, practice, and feedback. Managers who want to identify and support hidden leaders who lead through relationships should look for the following skills:

*Face-to-face communication skills: Hidden leaders are good at communicating one on one. They are sure to share information with others, which allows relationships to grow and connections to become stronger. They also clarify and confirm by asking questions to determine if they understand what a speaker has said. This eliminates misunderstandings that can cost companies millions of dollars. Additionally, hidden leaders acknowledge others. They establish trust by acknowledging a speaker’s point as valid, even if they do not agree with it. Others describe them as good listeners.

*Transparent critical thinking: Critical thinkers can develop conclusions and synthesize solutions by differentiating facts from assumptions and examining logical arguments. Hidden leaders take this a step further by making their critical thinking transparent to their peers. By providing the what and the why behind their thinking, they engage others in the process. This builds trust and deepens relationships.

*Crediting others: By identifying the specific contributions of others and giving them public credit, hidden leaders solidify relationships and build loyalty.

*Honest and complete critiques: Because they truly want to help others succeed, hidden leaders provide honest and complete critiques based on information, not judgments. They point out facts or behaviors but are careful to help others maintain their value.

*Effective conflict resolution: Hidden leaders are able to characterize conflict and manage it accordingly. When involved in conflicts around ideas, priorities, and opinions, they are able to build consensus and devise creative solutions. They use their strong relationship skills to handle damaging conflicts, which are the result of personality differences and power struggles.

A managers should examine the culture of his or her organization to determine if it promotes relational leadership. Relational cultures generally excel in the following five areas:

  1. Freedom to speak: When employees feel comfortable speaking up about an issue and trust management to give them the whole story, relational leadership can thrive.
  2. Decision-making processes: When decisions are integrated with the company’s main goals and leaders explain the reasons behind their decisions, it is easier for employees to invest their energies.
  3. Celebration of successes: When employees are celebrated for their contributions, they are encouraged to continue good work and others are inspired to do the same.
  4. Response to failures: Relational cultures accept that failures will occur and try to learn from them.
  5. The nature of conflict: Conflicts can be seen as opportunities for growth.

Organizations that want to promote relational skills should clearly outline their objectives and establish metrics to measure their success. Next, they should align systems with their new goals and follow up training with regular coaching and feedback.

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