I am in a season where new leadership and relational skills are being required of me, and it feels like a steep learning curve. On my journey of trying to find the resources I need, I ran into a book that Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus wrote, called Leaders. After studying ninety of the world’s most effective CEOs, they found that the most important facet in a leader’s effectiveness is what they called emotional wisdom, which reflects itself in the way that these leaders related to others. Leaders with emotional wisdom consistently used five key relational skills:
1. They had the ability to accept people as they are, not as they would like them to be.
Embarrassing Confession: Most of the time, I hope people will change so that it will be easier to be around them, or so that they will do what I want them to do. Ouch. Please tell me I’m not the only one on planet earth who does this. Have you ever stopped to consider how much energy this takes? Accepting people as they are doesn’t mean all behavior is OK, or that there are no boundaries. It simply means you stop trying to incessantly change them so that they become what you want them to be. It means you create a safe place for them to be who they actually are. We wish people would do this for us. Let’s start by doing it for them.
2. They had the capacity to approach relationships and problems in terms of the present rather than the past.
I had a conversation recently with a good friend, and he said something that triggered something from my past, and it threw the whole conversation into a tailspin. We went down an unhelpful road and it was really hard to find our way back. It takes intentionality to remain in the possibility of the present moment, believing that new realities can emerge which are not carbon copies of the past. But this is the only way hidden solutions make themselves known.
3. They had the ability to treat those who were close to them with the same courteous attention that they would extend to strangers and casual acquaintances.
Ouch. Why do we treat the ones we love the most, the worst? We can say it’s because we feel safe around our loved ones, but if we’re constantly bitter and irritated, I think the safe thing is a cop out. It’s not okay to treat those closest to us poorly simply because they’re safe. What if we had kindness foremost on our minds with those we love the most, even when we have hard conflicts? This seems like it would be a game changer.
4. They had the ability to trust others, even if the risk seemed great.
Trusting someone means that you’re willing to give them a chance with something that is valuable to you. Trusting is always risky. What if we gave up our need to control things, so that others could have a chance to show up and do something significant? Or fail spectacularly? We don’t have to be miserly with our trust.
5. They had the ability to do without constant approval and recognition from others.
This is one of the hardest ones for me. I’m embarrassed to admit how much I crave approval from those around me. But similarly to #1, when you stop to realize how much energy this takes, constantly wondering where you are in the polls, or what people think about your project, your sermon, your blog post, it’s staggering.
Which one of the five relational skills is most compelling to you? In it together, friends.