Leadership and Relationships

John C. Maxwell, author of the bestselling The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, says that the definition of leadership is influence.  While it is, first and foremost, the ability to influence followers, it also requires that the leader influence those people who make up any and all constituencies.

In a free society, all but the most socially and economically disadvantaged have choices – they can choose to work for you and your business or they can take their talents and abilities elsewhere.  It is, therefore, the manner in which you as a leader engage them that determines your level of influence.

Influence is derived from the relationships you create with your followers and other constituents.  How you act and interact with others is the basis for your success as a leader.  The quality of your relationships will determine your outcomes.  But you must understand that each of your followers and constituents is a unique individual with different needs and motivations.  What may work with one may fail miserably with another.  And, unfortunately, creating meaningful relationships with other people can be a great challenge for all of us – witness all the dysfunctional families, rocky romances, and failed marriages – and no less challenging for leaders who must interact with a wide variety of followers.

But the art of relationships can be learned.  Generally speaking, while it requires experience, judgment, a measure of sensitivity to the needs of others, and a fair degree of emotional maturity, the ability to form and sustain meaningful relationships improves with age.

Developing leadership, or relationship skills, is a cumulative process.  It’s why Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, proposes the Level 5 Hierarchy leading to the consummate Level 5 Leader.  It is why potential leaders must be identified early, why young managers must be trained in the skills of leadership, and why such skills should be nurtured and shaped with each increase in responsibility and each step of the career ladder.  Clearly, the rudimentary skills of direct face-to-face leadership that serve the front line supervisor so well are inadequate for the more complex and subtle exercise of authority required of a mid-level manager or senior executive.

Creating and sustaining meaningful relationships is at the heart of Service-Based Leadership.  The extent to which you are able to develop those relationships early in your career will have a great bearing on your future success – but not only in your career.  The bonus is that in developing Service-Based Leadership skills, you develop the skills to form meaningful relationships in other areas of your life.

Ed Rehkopf, Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Clarity Publications, 2009

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

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