There’s a fine divide between being a relatable leader, and undermining your authority by being “everyone’s friend”.
Where effective leadership is concerned, there are many ways to find yourself – in modern parlance – giving TMI (too much information)! Telling your team the graphic details of your personal life may seem obvious no-nos. However, how far do you go in opening up discussion with your subordinates about their concerns, emotional health and out of hours issues?
There is little doubt that the best leaders are those with acute emotional intelligence and an abundance of “soft skills”.
This can mean constantly evaluating and addressing your own emotional reaction to situations, as well as those you work with.
If you are accessible and relatable as a manager, staff will be far more likely to be honest and upfront about challenges and questions. That sort of real-time, open feedback can avoid your staff – or even your entire business – from becoming unhinged by the unexpected and insidious problems.
Invest in positive interaction
Being a leader who is willing to talk freely is also the best way of getting staff to trust you with their ideas and suggestions; the sort of information with the potential to fuel business efficiencies and even substantial innovation.
Your team need to be welcomed and encouraged to discuss their work with you one-to-one, in open forums, or via digital suggestion “boxes”. This all requires recognition, but the best feedback should be visibly rewarded too. Even when it is impractical or non-profitable, when team members demonstrate that they share the company vision and strive for improvement it can’t go unacknowledged.
Steps to becoming relatable without too much information
How do you become relatable as a leader, without losing your authority and focus though? Much depends on your ability to manage your time and leave clear and unequivocal slots for purposeful engagement.
This could be time in your office with your door open, sitting in the communal area, or being tangibly present on your intranet system answering queries in a corporate social network, for example. The important thing is to give 100% of your attention to free-flowing interaction, on a consistent basis, even if it is only for limited periods.
You also have the ability to grow your “relatability” if your communications are honest. This includes divulging some of your own concerns and setbacks, and also what excites you and what makes you passionate at work. It’s all about being authentically “you”, without divulging information that undermines colleague confidence in you as a leader.
Also, it pays to work out the influencers in your workforce, and pay particular attention to having a strong and open working relationship with them. Networking with the company “movers and shakers” on the shop floor is not about having spies, but investing in allies and people you know have the ears of most colleagues.
To practise relatable leadership, and get the best from your team, you don’t have to be “likeable” or a friend to all. However, you do need to have the respect of your workforce and to engender a culture in which you are “one of the team” as well as its driving force.
Our leadership consultants offer a solution to our clients an independent view as well as focusing on an individual’s level of potential. Contact our team to learn more – 0207 316 3146.