When I ask leaders what they give in their relationships with their team, the answers I most often hear back sound like support, trust, tools, authority to act…things that their position allows them to give. Sometimes, however, the most important thing we can give is the most vulnerable parts of ourselves.
Professional speakers like to say we’re not on the platform for us, but to serve our audience. I’ve come to understand that that’s not wholly nor literally true. It’s got to be at least somewhat about us, doesn’t it? Because we stand here not as a puppet, but with an agenda of our own. We talk about the topics we care about, hoping to impact and influence the world in profound and meaningful ways. It’s got to be a little bit about us or we’re just mouthpieces for someone else’s words. We are there for us, and we are there for you, in an interconnected web. If it goes well, you will get something valuable — and I will, too. Even Servant Leadership is not a one-way street. If we can’t be vulnerable, ask for help (which is not the same as “help me reach this target/goal), or relate to the audience and their fears…if we can’t be where they are, we can’t get them where they are going. If we can’t let others in, feel their emotions, understand their needs, then we miss the gift that leadership really offers: the gift of connection.
Are you connecting with your team? Are you connecting with yourself? After all, we lead ourselves first, and it’s amazing how easy it can be to hide from ourselves. There’s an old adage that says “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Do you? Care, that is? Do they? Know how much you care, that is? Sometimes the best thing a leader can do is nothing more than take the time to notice someone, to truly see them, and to let them know they are neither a tool in your toolbox, nor invisible.