Earning the Right to Lead

Hello, Leaders and welcome back!  In the last post, You’re a Leader…Now What?!, we discussed what it means to be entrusted to lead a group of people.  This week, we are going to go further into one of the foundational principles that must occur for you to be successful in leading people:  Building Relationships.

Building relationships is foundational because it is key to creating trust in your followers.  In other words, if you expect your people to buy into you as their leader, and to trust your leadership ability, you must first build a relationship of mutual respect.  To become good at leadership, you must earn the right to lead. Followers will follow you because you have earned their trust. This starts by showing your followers how grateful you are for them and how much you care about them as a person.  John C. Maxwell said, “People never care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  When followers sense their leader truly cares about them as a person, they are more likely to follow from the heart and not just out of obligation to a job title.  This sounds simple; nonetheless, it is true. 

Think back to all the leaders that impacted your life.  I bet the key to their leadership effectiveness was their ability to connect with you.  In fact, they probably spent more time talking about those things important to YOU and not about work (e.g. your family, your hobbies, your weekend plans, etc).  Remember those times they asked for you to get something work related accomplished?  You probably did it with more enthusiasm and intensity because of the rapport your leader had with you.  The best leaders understand that relationships are the most effective way to lead people.

What are some ways you can build positive relationships with your people?  Start by keeping things informal and relaxed.  Don’t call them into your office and grill them on their personal life!  This is cold and indifferent.  Leave your office and go to them.  Schedule time on your daily agenda to spend with them completing a daily task.  By getting them to show you how to do something, you are reinforcing their importance to you and the company.  Even if you know a more efficient way to accomplish the task, resist the temptation to correct them if they are not endangering themselves, you, or the equipment.  Remember, your first goal is to get to know them and encourage them to trust you.  There will be time for coaching and correcting in the future.

As you work with them, ask them about their families, their background, their goals, etc.  Here are ten good questions to start with:

  1. What does your spouse (or significant other) do for a living?
  2. How many kids (or grandkids) do you have?
  3. What do you and your family like to do?
  4. What do your siblings do for a living?
  5. Where did you grow up?
  6. If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
  7. What was your favorite summertime activity as a kid and why?
  8. Who do you look up to and consider to be your life hero?
  9. What are your personal goals?
  10. What are you passionate about?

The list of questions is endless, and I’m sure you can come up with more.  The point is to find out as much as possible about your followers so you can better relate to and serve them.  Internalize your personal commonalities and lace them into future conversations.  Ask follow-up questions based on what they have already revealed to you.  In doing so, you show you care about more than their ability to perform the job.  Subsequently, they will respond by doing better quality work for you.  Building relationships with your followers goes far beyond leading them from your title.  It allows you the opportunity to make a real connection and for them to genuinely want to follow you. Getting to know your people is the first step in earning your right to lead them.

Hope this helps, everybody!  If it does, please click the “Like” button and leave a comment.  Also, be sure to sign up for an email alert when we post new leadership bricks and other materials to help you build your leadership fortress.

Lead well!



Published by Bryan Etters

Hi! I am a servant leader determined to help leaders grow and develop their personal and professional leadership skills. I am a retired military member with over 20 years of leadership experience in both the military and business worlds. I am determined to help you lead!

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