Describing Relational Leadership is what my last posts have been about. Relational Leadership, as explained in Part Two, is the recognition that leaders and followers are in relationship to one another. Good leaders must therefore connect with the values and motivations of followers. In other words, a Relational Leader understands that the culture of a group, whether a church or a business, needs to reflect the values of the group and that those same values must permeate the entire workplace top to bottom.
So what does Relational Leadership look like in action? Here is an example.
Tony Hsieh who recently sold his company for $850 million was interviewed by Anthony Tjan over at HBR and opined, “I am also a big believer in optimizing company performance and driving culture, using intrinsic motivators (like meaningful roles with learning and growth) over extrinsic factors (such as compensation). In a prior post I wrote about how to make employees happier. Extrinsic motivations like pay and status are certainly needed (people need to eat, after all), but it is the intrinsic motivation that drives purpose and long-term commitment.”
A Relational Leader connects with the intrinsic values and motivations of people. As a result people work harder and are happier because they believe they are engaged in something significant and meaningful to them.
Many leaders of businesses and churches say they are driven by the core values of their group but in fact they are not consistent. Instead they allow elements of the organization (org chart, constitution, tradition) to be the drivers in terms of how business gets done. In essence power, authority, and position become reasons for why things are the way they are.
Hsieh recognizes this fact and observes, “For us the difference is that we wanted to come up with committable core values, meaning we’re actually willing to hire and fire people based on them, regardless of, or independent of, their specific job performance.”
Just imagine, a board member or leader who, although competent, was made to step down because they were not expressing the core values of the group. And why not? After all, a good leader is a champion of the organization’s core values .
When people are not held accountable for expressing the values of the group, leaders unwittingly communicate that core values are not really important. As a result, those who truly are committed feel de-valued and the morale and the spirit of the whole organization plummets. Perplexed leaders begin hearing charges of being “two-faced” without realizing that the source of people’s frustration is actually their own inaction.
Many in the church have recognized in the Bible, Mathew 18 as a kind of 3 step procedure to solving this kind of personnel problem. The offending individual is first approached one on one; then with one or two people in authority; and finally they are “fired” if no change is made. No matter the context, religious or secular, Relational Leaders adapt these principles to their work context and then act to make value alignment a priority for their organization.