To Help Leaders Develop, Focus on the Relationship First

Yesterday, we had our quarterly board meeting at FullContact.

There were a few moments during the meeting when I got emotional and teared up. 

During one of those moments, it was in response to one of our leaders speaking about the last several months.   

Over the last several months, this particular leader stepped into a role, owned it, and improved the function dramatically in a very short time frame.

The results in Q1 were outstanding and exceeded all expectations.  The entire room recognized the results  with applause.

Our board members commended this  leader for his outstanding contributions.

He got emotional.  I got emotional.  We hugged.

Yes, we cry and hug during board meetings at FullContact.

But it made me pause and think about a specific dynamic I have seen in the past few months at FullContact.

I have seen a handful of people step into first time leadership roles and surpass all expectations.

These people are intelligent.  

They are driven.  

They are emotionally self aware.  

They simply hadn’t been bestowed formal leadership roles in the past.

But the thing about leadership is this: It doesn’t need to be bestowed on you. 

Leadership is not about the title or the authority.

To be a leader, you simply need one thing: followers.

All of these people already had followers. 

They were already leaders in their own functional areas.

In each case, we simply gave them the title that reflected the reality.

But to increase probability of success, it’s also important to provide leaders with the necessary day to day emotional support when they are given the title, increased authority and responsibility.  

There’s a reason it’s called the “burden” of command.  It’s not an easy job, and it brings unexpected emotions and struggles for all leaders – both first time and experienced.

We have tried to provide this emotional support at FullContact by focusing on the personal relationship between leaders.

Each leader is built differently and often needs something different from a tactical perspective, but I believe that the fundamental key to unlocking that is an emotionally honest personal relationship.

A personal relationship that is built on honesty, trust, and authenticity will go a long ways towards providing the emotional support a leader needs to succeed.

That can be someone to share fears and anxieties with.

That can be someone to celebrate victories and achievements with.

That can be a shoulder to cry on.

That can be someone to pick you up when you’ve been knocked down.

That can be someone to call when there is no one else to call.

For me, it’s been immensely satisfying for me to watch these leaders develop and grow.  

Along the way, I feel like I have maintained a special personal relationship with each of them.  

More importantly, I see some of the deep bonds they have developed with one another, and that makes me really happy.

Those bonds and relationships will help these leaders continue to grow as professionals and as people.   

Because at at the end of the day, success in life is all about people.

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