A lot of leaders think they’re supposed to have ALL the answers ALL the time. They think they need to be ALL things to ALL people. And, sometimes, there are aspects in leadership in which that is true: a CEO needs to speak to everybody when they’re giving a company-wide speech. And isn’t it always true that our greatest frustration with any president is when they only care about those who voted for them? A good leader does need to serve everybody. 

But (and there IS a but) —

In the day-to-day work, in the details, in the minute and even mundane functionality of being a leader, it really isn’t about everybody. This is not the speech at the retreat, the company-wide memo or the annual conference; this is about the daily engagement of small groups and individuals serving different purposes with different skill sets, driven by personal values and integrity.

When you’re talking to them, your conversation has to be relevant to them. Their struggles. Their lives. We can’t do that with a broad brush.

If we go back to the president example, this was the key to Bill Clinton’s success. On a plane once, I sat next to a Republican politician and we got to talking about leading with opponents. I hadn’t yet fully revealed my position when he shared Clinton as an example of one of the secrets to success. “Love him or hate him,” he said, “everyone who met him always seemed to have the same experience: ‘It felt like he was talking to me personally; like I was the only one in the room.’ He engaged with every individual he met.”

That is leadership. That is powerful.

We need both. We need to connect to the WHOLE team so they’re all moving in the same direction.

But we need individual connection to really feel validated, motivated and connected.

Photo by Rupert Britton on Unsplash