Leadership v Relationship

Frequently I am asked to talk about leadership, and frequently, as I first stand up and introduce the title of my presentation, I begin by challenging it. I say “Let’s take away the word leadership and replace it with the word relationship and see what happens”.

The word leadership can bring baggage with it. We think it is not for us, but for the people above us - we link it to hierarchy. It brings with it a responsibility and that may put us off too - “I don’t want the responsibility”. We may have suffered from some poor leadership and the scar is deep within our psyche. We can confuse it with command & control, or autocracy. And when we look at the antics of our political leaders we can become mightily confused on what leadership is all about! So let’s take away the tension. Let’s use the word “relationship” instead.

But does that work? Well yes, I believe so. I believe that for 90% of what leadership is all about, it does, with the 10% being more about the business or skill context within which it is applied, but let’s have a look closer and challenge my premise.

So what is leadership all about? My experience and research suggest that it is about creating followers and inspiring, influencing and motivating them to achieve great things, more than they thought they could. It’s about bringing people together to create collective brilliance. It is about leaving a legacy, helping others grow. Compassionate leaders focus on securing commitment through self-worth. One model, we will look at later in the programme, suggests leadership is focused in a number of areas including supporting the team, facilitating ideas and in making decisions.

So how can we do any of that if we can’t relate? You cannot motivate, inspire or influence me unless you know what motivates and inspires me and what specific buttons to press within me that build the trust that allows you to influence. We cannot create self-worth in others through ignorance. You cannot support or help me grow unless you understand my needs and my journey.

If leadership is about creating followers, well I know that for me, I will only follow someone I trust and I will only trust someone who has my best interest at heart, who knows me intimately.

So when I am questioned about my work on compassionate leadership with people who are not in positions of leadership, there are 2 parts to my response.

Firstly, if leadership is about motivating and influencing others, about helping them grow supporting and inspiring, collaboratively problem solving with the creation of ideas and the agreement to decisions, then, that is for everybody no matter who they are or where they believe they may be in the pecking order.

Secondly, I also believe that the words leadership and relationship can be interchanged throughout this programme and in all of my work; the motivational and influential aspects of both are the same. Relating is most definitely for everybody!

So, if you are in a position of leadership, then all that I share in the coming programme can be used in your leadership journey too. If you don’t see yourself as a leader, but you do operate within a team or across teams, then as a committed and compassionate team member, you have a responsibility to help all do what is right, to be a great team, to inspire, motivate and influence your colleagues; so these lessons are equally applicable to you. And if you work alone in absolute isolation, then apply these lessons to your own personal journey in life. Tap into your self motivation, your self-worth. Become the best “you” that you can be, and sooner or later you will be in a position of leadership or influence, so save it up for then.

The core skills of compassionate leadership are for everybody no matter where you might sit in the world; before you can lead you need to relate, before you can truly collaborate you need to relate and as compassion begins at home, live a life of inspiration, shine brightly and relate well to yourself.


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