Relational Leadership

200412016-001I 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.

All of these five elements create relational trust. In the space of trust, after a period of time, you’ll create a significant amount of influence that ultimately empowers the individual towards results.



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  • John
    Posted at 05:04h, 05 December Reply

    Hi Colin, there is great value in these newsletter/articles, thank you sincerely for sharing them! Luv yer werk!! best regards John Sharkey

  • Michelle Kim
    Posted at 11:17h, 05 December Reply

    Hey Colin
    Love this article. I was wondering what your thoughts were when working with a team who at times can be hostile, defensive. Some of the people in the team I am in have been there forever and a day and were recently disappointed they did not get VRs (as was I:)). They are pretty set in their ways and tend to attack any new manager that steps in. I know my manager and another colleague who manages the more difficult team members have been casualties all year of the team. I don’t so much get the crap personally (even tho I’ve been the recipient at times) but certainly have seen my colleagues cop it. I’m praying for the day when our org gets the restructure which is on the cards but the org is slow to move. btw we have no money for team bldg stuff cos it’s govt and they are cutting L, R & C!
    Cool to hear your thoughts.

    • administrator
      Posted at 15:08h, 06 December Reply

      Thanks so much for your comment, Michelle. Sounds like you’re in a challenging situation. Sometimes the people on your team are not the people who should be on the team and this can be a difficult situation. There’s a great concept called the ‘bus principle’ where Jim Collins talks about how some people need to get off the bus, some people need to get on the bus. It can be very difficult at times to change other people. The first thought is that maybe they’re the wrong people on the bus. The second thought would be that maybe these people just want to be heard. A lot of times, people get upset because they feel like they’re not being heard. So if we can set up a forum where they can be heard personally, and their concerns are genuinely considered, then sometimes that can settle some of the issues that are overflowing. Good luck with the situation. Love to help out more when you can get a budget. Hahaha. ☺

  • Oleary
    Posted at 17:32h, 05 December Reply

    Thanks Colin for your notes and tips. They are always relevant and are very useful pointers that can be applied. I always read the notes that you send out and ‘appreciate the reminders.

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