"It's time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode."
When President Obama made this statement in his 2014 State of the Union address, he was referring to gender pay inequality. But I couldn't help but think the message rings true for leadership strategies as well.
The rise of women leaders, Millennial innovators, and global business partners have all rendered same old, same old leadership tactics ineffective. In order to attract and retain the best talent today and tomorrow, leaders need to shun Don Draper and embrace relationship building.
This doesn't mean becoming a touchy-feely, feelings-supersede-results, massages-at-3 p.m.-everyday type of leader. Relationship leaders have distinct methods that differ from title-driven or command-and-control leaders. Yet they still have a strong focus on results.
Here are three ways to become a relationship-focused leader.
Candid vs. Jerk
Your marketing newbie botched his presentation to the senior team. Do you call him out in front of the group, belittling his analysis and indicating that his mistake could be career ending? Or do you acknowledge holes in his summary and suggest he lead a group debrief to fill in the gaps?
A relationship leader is direct, truthful, and open, but he or she isn't a jerk. There's a distinct level of candor to drive home the point, but it's delivered in a way that's humane and sincere.
Decisive vs. Directive
People want to work with leaders who can make decisions. However, being decisive also means building consensus when appropriate. Relationship leaders have versatile approaches and understand when to slow down and solicit ideas or ask questions. The ability to probe effectively leaves your team feeling like you're curious about their perspective, not just quizzing them in order to prove you have all the answers.
Relationship leaders also shy away from edicts and command-like methods. Today's workforce doesn't respond to a "because I'm the boss" rationale.
Being decisive means you've got data and input to move forward. Being directive could mean you're impatient and have little need for others' input.
Respond, Don’t React
Stress equals anxiety, and that can lead to depression, an increased risk of heart disease, and even obesity! A reactionary leadership approach is bound to raise your stress levels as well as those of your team.
Before you react, pause to take a breath. It's not easy. It can be tough to be a relationship-focused leader when every fiber of you wants to react to the situation instead of taking a moment.
Leaders are faced with this dilemma daily. A proposal went to a client full of typos and incorrect information. There’s a large part of you that wants to fire off a curt email, knowing it will elicit fear. Or pick up the phone and leave an emotional voicemail that ultimately will haunt you.
Just think about how differently you can handle a tough scenario if you respond instead of reacting. Responding requires thoughtfulness and tact. It's less emotionally driven and more solution-oriented.
You don't need to profess an unending love for your team, but leaders who deploy a relationship-based style are better able to relate to an ever-changing and diverse workforce. They are able to handle dynamic shifts in business cycles and maintain their composure and their teams. By being curious about people while driving results, they are able to build and maintain stronger teams.