In the classic film, Gladiator, the retired champion, Proximo calls the young Maximus to his chambers. He councils our hero on how best to win his freedom when they reach Rome.
Proximo tells Maximus that he must make the crowd love him if he is to triumph. “Win the crowd and you will win your freedom.”
Connecting with people isn’t always this dramatic, it’s not always life or death, but it is always a critical part of life, love, and leadership. I’ve been in a leadership role for over a decade and I’m constantly seeking ways to become the best leader possible. Personally, I strive to be a servant leader. I aim to serve those who follow me, not the other way around.
Whatever you do in life, you must first seek to connect with people and build relationships. We all need allies in life. To gain allies and build connections you need to find commonalities and be relatable.
This is especially true when you’re in a position of leadership. To be successful in a new leadership role, you must first aim to connect with your respective teams and/or departments. Aim to get to know not only who is on the team, but why they are on the team. Learn what functions they perform, while constantly seeking to understand their respective challenges, pain-points, and current frustrations.
People have a great built-in radar system for detecting bullshit; they will know from your behavior, not your words, whether you are actually listening and truly care. To succeed as a leader, your team(s) must genuinely feel that you are not just hearing them but truly listening to them as well.
Listening is often a sadly underrated skill for leaders. You learn a lot more from listening than you ever will from talking, and you can’t do both at the same time. Many do a good job of hearing but not listening. Before you lay down a strategy or an agenda, aim to first absorb as much as you can. People will be far more eager to follow you when they know that you’re listening.
Become a friend and break through the employee/employer barrier before you aim to correct. Ultimately, if you want to lead your team, you must win their hearts. We don’t often use words like heart and love when we talk about business, but winning hearts without love, compassion, and gratitude is all ineffective. Life, like leadership, is equal to zero in the absence of love!
You don’t have to be the most talented person in the world to excel in life. Far more important than talent is your ability to connect with people, speak from the heart, and be authentic, compassionate, and grateful. These are the keys to living a fulfilled and purposeful life.
Personally, I work hard to connect with the people I interact with. It doesn’t come easily for me, believe it or not. As a Type A personality, I am hard on myself and often set high expectations for the people around me as well as myself. I am well aware that I often have unrealistic expectations.
I am lucky to have recognized that blind spot very early on as something that could make or break my life. As such, I work hard to be purposeful in my interactions so that blind spot doesn’t negatively impact my ability to genuinely connect with people in both my professional and personal life. It’s not something I’ve mastered, in fact, I’m not sure one can ever truly master interpersonal connection, but it’s something I strive to be better at every day.
One of the best lessons I’ve learned over the years is that one of the best ways to better yourself is to aim to set an example for those around you. Aim to be a shining light of positivity and inspiration and work every day to make the world around you a slightly better place. The greatest influence we have on the world is in how we live our daily lives. How we live doesn’t need to be perfect in the eyes of society, but it does have to be better. People will follow your lead if the life you live is exemplary and inspirational.
As a leader, you can talk a great game, but it’s ultimately your actions that speak loud and clear. True leadership is achieved by a set of actions that MOVE, INSPIRE, and WOW the people you serve.
Should you want to make a breakthrough in connecting with the people you lead and serve, I welcome a conversation to help you get closer to your goal.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog.
Sending you love, gratitude, and blessings!