From a development perspective, the word leadership is misleading when defined as being the best, on top, winning, or being in charge, and having control.Inspirational tales of archetypal leadership victory and glory celebrated in popular culture and even business journalism don’t offer much about how to lead in the day-to-day of getting stuff done.
Leadership requires collaborating more than conquering, and development is about learning how to influence without direct authority-specifically, peers who have no incentive to consider your ideas. Efforts to break silos and get leaders working collectively on behalf of the business fail when leaders try to seek agreement without first addressing the level of trust between each other.
The solution is to learn how to link arms with peers and draw closer together. Develop mutual trust and respect by getting behind peers, instead of getting in front of them. Demonstrate that you’re more committed to partnership than getting what you want. This can be challenging for people who are successful at getting what they want.
When it comes to leading effectively and powerfully, what you do is less important than how you do it. Every engagement with peers is an opportunity to build trust and respect, and that matters more than having the right answer or best idea. In each meeting and conversation, make increasing trust one of your goals. For increasing trust in your working relations with peers, try the following practices that focus on three areas: listening, open-mindedness and vulnerability.
- See how long you can listen without speaking.
- Suspend your opinions and judgments.
- Pay attention to body language and emotional cues.
- See the view from your peers’ perspective before asking them to see things from yours.
- Consider that everyone is right, and nobody is wrong.
- Be patient. The best solution may be hidden behind a conversation that’s being avoided.
- Share more about your emotional state.
- Own up to your mistakes and reactionary behaviors.
- Ask for feedback about what you can do to be easier to work with.
Most people know that trust is important at work, but feel uncomfortable talking openly about it, and that makes it hard to measure. To track the effectiveness of your efforts, tell your peers that you’re working to increase trust with them, and ask them how it’s going. Acknowledge that it’s an awkward conversation. Also point to how weird it is that so few people talk about trust given how important it is for productivity.
Self-righteousness, defensiveness, and staying within your comfort zone will undermine your efforts. Be the perfectly imperfect person you really are. The greatest gift that you bring to your role in the organization is not your big IQ, it’s your unique ability to connect with other people in meaningful ways.
Shift the thinking from “leaders make things happen” to “leaders bring people together.” For the overall health of the business, and your own future there, developing your peer relationships may take priority over developing relationships with your boss and employees.