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Being a Connected Leader

paper cut out of people connected by hand

What is Connected Leadership? 

Connected leadership, rooted in the theory of emotional intelligence, is a concept that connects the physical world of leadership with the emotional intelligence (EQ) of the leader. Connected leadership stems from self-awareness, empathy, and transparency - which enables an awareness of one’s emotions and those of others. For example, a connected leader can recognize when their direct reports are frustrated or unhappy at work by taking note of subtle cues such as changes in body language or vocal tone—signals less-connected leaders often miss.

Connected leaders are also aware of their strengths and weaknesses. This makes them more capable of being vulnerable and allowing vulnerability in others. They also tend to view themselves as part of a larger whole and recognize that people are more than just employees; they are individuals with unique talents, strengths, and stories. 

Connected leadership means holding each person accountable for their performance - not through fear or intimidation but through genuine connection and understanding of where the other person is coming from. This allows the leader to motivate team members in ways that aren’t possible with more traditional leadership styles.

Why Connected Leadership is Important to Organizational Culture

When it comes to the impact on teams and organizations, connected leadership helps to foster a culture of open communication and collaboration. Connected leaders cultivate honesty, integrity, and trust within their organizations by consistently demonstrating those qualities themselves. This helps to create an environment where employees feel free to be authentic with one another and where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for growth. 

When authenticity and trust are valued as core principles within a team, people are more likely to enjoy greater autonomy and feel secure in voicing concerns or objections without fear of reprisal. This produces a sense of psychological safety that allows people to think more creatively about problems and come up with innovative ideas that might not have occurred if they were micromanaged into thinking within a very narrow view.

Connected Leadership and Leadership Styles

Connected leadership is a natural complement to some leadership styles but doesn’t mesh well with those focused mainly on commanding, directing, or informing. For instance, with an autocratic/directive leadership style, employees are often expected to follow orders without question—they’re seen as extensions of their leader’s will. Though useful in some situations, it can be challenging to cultivate a sense of connection between employees in this sort of environment. It’s easy for them to feel like mere cogs in a machine rather than essential parts of an integrated whole. This can breed resentment among workers if they feel like they’re not being heard or appreciated, leading to underperformance or an uncooperative attitude towards management. 

Alternately, democratic and laissez-faire leadership styles allow for more connected leadership because of their focus on employees’ contributions. They more easily support building personal relationships with team members, focusing on team building, and empowering employees’ voices. Though these activities can sometimes take longer to get things done, they result in multiple benefits (like higher employee morale and less turnover) because they foster a sense of connection between employees and gives them confidence that their voices are heard and valued.

How to Become a Connected Leader

Some people naturally gravitate toward a connected leadership style. However, if it doesn’t come naturally to you or you aren’t sure where to begin, the following tips will help you get started. 

Set an intention 

It’s nice to think about being a more connected leader, but actually doing it requires action. The first step is deciding that you will take it seriously, then devoting some time to develop an actionable strategy to increase your leadership connectivity. 

Connect regularly

Establishing and maintaining multiple work connections takes some time and energy, but it’s worth it. Make connecting with your team a habit by scheduling regular one-to-one check-ins and group gatherings to share and cultivate deeper work relationships.  

Ask questions

Ask your employees about themselves (their interests, their challenges, etc.). Be sure to be present and actively listen while they answer. This helps you to understand them better and builds trust. Also, when people feel seen and heard, they are more likely to contribute better ideas and speak up when they have concerns.

Show that you're human

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and honest. When you do this, you demonstrate that you are a human with flaws (just like they are). This allows them to relax more around you and not worry about keeping up appearances or holding back.

Demonstrate empathy

Being connected means acknowledging other peoples’ experience and feelings. If you aren’t sure, ask. Or imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes (how might you feel if you were dealing with the same thing?) You might share a similar experience or offer your support. Expressing empathy indicates a level of caring and respect that goes a long way toward building genuine connections.

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