Leadership is ……?????
We have a LinkedIn Group in Barrington and we met this morning at a local restaurant instead of our normal monthly 5:30 pm at a local pub/restaurant near the train station. Much was the same except the time and location: new members connecting, friends getting reacquainted, organizations I was familiar with, leaders having light as well as strategic side conversations, food being eaten, laughter, handshakes and a few hugs (mostly guys here today), and the requisite exchange of a few business cards.
But as I simply watched and listened for a few minutes, allowing my ears to filter through the din of clanging plates and silverware, blended in with half a dozen unrelated conversations, I noticed something. In one sense it was really nothing yet, in another profound sense, it was everything – even leaders are wired to connect. Relationship is built into the leadership hard drive. And it is only the destructive, narcissistic, control-freak leader who erases that from his or her hard drive.
As I watched, I observed that this was not really about networking or scouting or schmoozing – it was simply about relating. We did not have to put “relationships” on the agenda. It simply was. The true leader – the real leader – is relational because that is our identity, who we are at the core.
Leadership is Relationship.
Granted, we do not always navigate smoothly across the sometimes choppy waters of relationships. There is always the potential for turbulent seas and rolling waves to keep us from reclining calmly in our favorite relational deck chair.
But make no mistakes. We leaders have a treasure within us, something we must steward with care and embrace with resolve. We are blessed with relational capacity that has the potential – on its own, with no agenda – to shape and reshape the world, one life at a time.
I doubt this morning that anyone made a new referral for business, or shared one fresh, game changing organizational insight, or offered one strategic management tip. If that occurred, it was a stealth operation. And it was a natural extension of the conversation so no one noticed and no one felt left out of the deal.
Yes, perhaps something will emerge down the road that produces some business for someone. But it will not be because we exchanged cards, or shook hands or clicked a few websites. It will be because something far greater is at work – something deeper, permanent and good. Something defined by friendship, loyalty, trust and love (yes, I said it – love) for one another that was fostered and celebrated.
Today it was just raw, relationship-at-the-core leadership, with no demands, no controlling interests, and no need to impress one another.
Perhaps this is why I love doing so much work with groups and teams, helping leaders establish a real sense of community, whether between individuals or throughout organizations. It is because I am privileged to serve leaders who, at the center of all they are and do, are “relaters.”
Here’s a thought. Perhaps this is what we need in more organizations and in our government: a Chief Relating Officer or Relater in Chief (RIO).
On second thought, nah…No way! That would ruin the whole purpose. Pretty soon there would be Relating Committees and Relater Regulators and bonus schedules tied to Relater Interactions per quarter, or some such nonsense.
I think I like it the way it is. Better yet, I know I like it the way it is.
Because I was reminded again today how so much of leadership is relationship. Not “about” relationships, not “using” relationships, not “building” relationships. All those actions are essential and productive to any leadership endeavor. But it was so much more. It was so relational, so communal so vibrant.
It just was.
It just is.
Leadership is Relationship.