One of my favorite leadership proverbs is “people follow only leaders they trust; they trust only leaders they know.”
If leadership is influence, then leadership (i.e., influence) can best be exercised on a foundation of relationship.
Most leaders are wise enough to get to know the people in their group on a personal level; admittedly, not on a deep, personal level but at some level beyond knowing a person’s name and assignment.
But any type of relationship, if it’s going to be a good relationship, is mutual. Thus, a leader should also let herself become known on a personal level.
I had several conversations with my boss before I started my first day on the job I have now. Based on those conversations, I had developed a pretty detailed plan about what I was going to do during my first weeks on the job.
Call it intuition, common sense or the hand of God, but I realized that this approach might be pushing too hard too fast. I shelved this plan and decided to focus on “being” rather than “doing.”
My first presentation to the management team was not just about work. It was about helping the team to know me better.
The presentation included “The Book on Greg,” in which I shared personal work insights such as “I ask questions, not as a means of challenging what is being said, but in order to fully understand what is being said.” Some personal insights were humorous, such as my declared belief that “If it ain’t bacon, it ain’t breakfast.”
The experiences I generated by being instead of doing helped me to become known and trusted. This helped me to influence people as well as the policies and procedures that govern their work.
I suspect that the 12 leaders whom Moses sent into the Promised Land—Shammua, Shaphat, Caleb, Igal, Hoshea (Joshua), Palti, Gaddiel, Gaddi, Ammiel, Sethur, Nahbi and Geuel—were better known to the Israelites and thus more trusted than Moses.
So when 10 of those leaders said, “Let’s go back to Egypt” to the people who knew them and trusted them, their first response was, “OK, let’s go back.” Those 10 were effective in exercising leadership through influence.
Of course, we know that going back to Egypt was not the right decision, which brings us to our next topic: If leadership is influence, what’s the difference between effective leadership and good leadership?