I believe that leaders need to find a nice balance between challenge and relationship. Many leaders today either verge too much on trying to get the other person to like them (relationship), or too much on trying to drive the other person (challenge). There needs to be a nice balance between creating likability and pushing performance. Finding that balance will build trust — and ultimately, influence. This sweet spot in the middle is what I call relational leadership.
I believe there are five core elements to creating relational leadership:
1. Presence — As a leader, you must be completely present with your people. When you’re having a conversation with them, you must be in the moment and actively listening to their conversation, looking them in their eyes, leaning in and showing that you care. That’s the foundation.
2. Confidence — You must show that you are a confident individual and that you are someone they can believe in. There needs to be a level of certainty that you transmit to people about who you are. People want to find certainty and confidence in you as a leader, not uncertainty. They have enough uncertainty themselves.
3. Challenge — As a leader, you must provide a challenge for your people. In that nice space between pushing them hard and not pushing them enough, is a space called flow. One of the core characteristics of a great leader is the ability to create a challenge for an individual where they move into a place of flow and utilise their strengths. To get your people to rise to the next level, you must challenge them just enough.
4. Warmth — Show them that not only are you present, confident and challenging but you’re also warm in your approach. You need to be approachable. People need to feel that you’re a safe place to have a conversation in. They need to feel that you truly care about them.
5. Consistency — The final element you must have is consistency. You must show your team and the people around you that there is a consistency of character about you. They know ‘in a general way’ what they are going to get when they have a conversation with you. This sense of consistency builds trust and understanding between you and others.