Leadership Happens One-on-One
Often, our image of powerful leadership is that of celebrated figures like Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, or Billy Graham, standing in front of throngs of adoring followers, inspiring them to march forward.
But great oratory never made a great leader, a person that people actually want to follow (not have to). Great leadership always starts, and rests, on a one-on-one connection with people. Too often, this concept is lost on many leaders. Here’s why…
Connect with People One-On-One
Effectual leadership does not emanate from eloquent speeches before hungry crowds. It does not happen naturally by sharing grandiose visions and lofty words of wisdom from a stage or the head of the conference table. While for many leaders, stirring large audiences with their words is important, the very heart of leadership is not practiced from a platform.
Excellent leadership happens when one person connects with another. I know this may not sound like an exhilarating exercise. But it’s the truth. Leadership happens one-on-one. Not one on ten, one on one hundred, or one on one million. There is a sense of magic when we stand before a crowd and speak encouraging words of inspiration. As leaders, we feel it. But I promise you, though motivated in the moment, your people will not stay with you for the long haul without deeper ties. It is your personal connection with them, most importantly listening to them and hearing their hearts, that is going to establish your leadership.
There is a common misconception among pastors about how to reach people. My father was one, so I had an inside look at many churches. While pastors’ hearts are usually in the right place, some pastors mistakenly think that they lead best by standing in front of their congregation on Sunday morning and offering a rousing sermon. But that’s not the greatest point of impact. The most profound connections are made in relationships, one-on-one. Many pastors, and leaders of all types of organizations, put more emphasis on preaching to people from a platform, than reaching them one-on-one.
Lead People One-On-One
Friend, leadership happens one-on-one. How can you accomplish that level of connection when you lead many people? Well, let’s talk practically for a moment. Most leaders have less than seven direct reports. Meeting with each of them, one-on-one, should be a manageable affair. I do it weekly with my team. Does it require a huge investment on my end? You bet it does! But that is what it takes to create personal bonds.
These meetings have a few key characteristics:
1. They don’t have to be long, but they need to be personal. Even a five to ten minute meeting is enough if everyone’s priorities and hearts are aligned.
2. Meetings must be regular. My formula is usually to meet weekly, or more frequently if there is higher frequency of change or stress, or if a new person is added to the team.
3. The meeting has to have these three components. They don’t have to be in this order, but I make sure they happen:
- Listen. Here, I ask questions. How are you? What can I do for you? How can we do a better job as a team? How can I improve as a leader? What is your biggest challenge at work? What are your goals for next year? I will ask whatever is needed. My intent is to see inside the heart of another person, as much as they will allow me.
- Build. I tell them that I think they are amazing and how grateful I am to have them. Be careful not to exaggerate here. Everyone has something remarkable about them. As leaders, it is our job to find it, and make a big deal out of it. I build people up by valuing them and their opinions. After all, I need them. Our team needs them. We need their thoughts and input. Asking for and listening to their input not only helps me and our team, it also builds them up. I share with them where I am at. I invite them to come with me, not tell them where I am going and ask them to follow me. They are my partners. I truly believe in them. And I communicate that to them. I want them to know that.
- Align. Here expectations from my end and their’s should be stated and aligned. I ask people to consider working on areas that I think would make them and the team more effective. I don’t push and prod. But I am direct when I need to be. This is also where boundaries need to be drawn, especially early in a relationship. This area of directing, defining, and offering feedback is usually only 10% or less of the three step engagement. If I have listened well, and built people up consistently, then we will be on the same page.
- Friend, before you gather your team, your church, or your organization for a rousing talk, always ask yourself if you have made one-on-one time with each of them consistently. You may say that you have too many people to do that with. Then select leaders among them and connect with them. And ask those leaders to then spend one-on-one time with the others.
It’s true, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, and Billy Graham impacted people all over the world, even if they did not talk to them one-on-one. But their inner circles, the people who made it possible for them to be on stage, were touched personally by these amazing men.
Actionable step: Make changes in your schedule to allow yourself time to connect with your people one-on-one. Start with weekly meetings and adjust as needed. And when you train your leaders, always remind them: leadership happens one-on-one.
About me… I have a dream to go to the base camp of Mount Everest in the next couple of years. If you have been there, I would love to hear your advice. If you’re reading this from your email, hit ‘reply’ and share with me. Or from the website, you can reply in the comments below.
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