Good leadership always makes a difference; unfortunately, so does bad leadership. This leadership truth continues as we will be talking about the 10th of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
When E.F. Hutton Speaks, People Listen
Anyone within a couple of decades of my age remember this tagline from the ubiquitous commercials of the ‘70s and ‘80s for the E.F. Hutton stock brokerage. Fifty years later it still sticks with me, and John Maxwell has leveraged it into one of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
“When the real leader speaks, people listen.” - John C. Maxwell
I was with a client recently where this law was on full display. When I am speaking or teaching, I have the unique perspective of being able to watch the audience and observe behaviors and reactions to what I am saying. I was recently facilitating an ISO certification kickoff meeting with a group of a shop supervisors and department leads at a new client’s facility. We had about 15 people in the room, including the operations manager. I was feeling pretty good about my communication skills as I saw a sea of nodding heads while I spoke. One woman, “Sally,” nodded enthusiastically after something brilliant I had obviously just said, but then I noticed a very slight delay before others began to also nod. I began to feel a bit deflated as I realized that many in the room were taking their cues from Sally and not necessarily from my charismatic dialog. When I asked the team if they were ready for the level of commitment, support, and work the project required, most of them looked first to Sally, and not the operations manager, before verbally agreeing.
It was clear that Sally was the “real leader” on the shop floor, the one everyone looked to for help and guidance. While this is not the norm, nor should it be, there are informal leaders in every company. Positional leaders have a title but not always a following while real leaders have a following but not always a title. Positional leaders influence positionally while real leaders influence everyone. How do you become a real leader? Real leaders become real leaders because of:
- Past successes
Remember the saying, “The title does not make the leader; the leader makes the title.”
Everyone Communicates, Few Connect
This is such an important concept that John Maxwell wrote an entire book on it. The ability to connect with people is an essential component of leadership and a “must have” for great leaders.
“You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion. The heart comes before the head.” - John C. Maxwell
Connecting with people is not easy. We need to touch a heart before we ask for a hand, and the first heart we must touch is our own. In other words, we cannot lead others to places we’ve never been to ourselves. What does it mean to connect with ourselves? It means understanding the answers to the following questions:
- Do I ask, “How can I help you?”
- What is my greatest asset?
- Am I applying my strengths?
- How can I use my strengths to coach others?
- How well do I relate and communicate with others?
- Do I like me? Am I likeable?
- What can I do to project my sincerity and add value to others?
Authenticity is a trait people look for in a leader. Do you ask questions about others’ lives? Do you understand what motivates them? What is important to them? A leader fails if he or she does not know their followers. If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you might want to actively work on improving your connection skills in the following ways:
- Connect with yourself
- Be open and sincere
- Live your message
- Know your people
- Communicate on their level
- Commit to helping others
- Believe in others
- Offer direction and hope
Developing relationships with the real leaders in an organization and honing your ability to form meaningful connections with others will become vital tools in your leadership toolbox. Develop and use these tools early in your relationships with others and you will quickly see the benefits.
This column originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of PCB007 Magazine.