I’m in a series highlighting 9 Effective Servant Leadership Practices. Servant leadership is not just a good idea. It works! The 9 effective leadership practices highlighted in this series capture core leadership dimensions that are correlated with effectiveness in the team context.
The second grouping of servant leadership practices presented in the model emphasizes the importance of understanding the priority of people. In this second cluster of servant leadership practices, leadership behaviors associated with effective teams include: (1) valuing and appreciating, (2) creating a place for individuality, and (3) understanding relational skills. This week we take on Leadership Practice 6 — Understanding Relational Skills.
Practice 6: Understanding Relational Skills
This second cluster, which is focused on understanding the priority of people, ends with the servant leadership practice of Understanding Relational Skills. Knowing how to get along with people is basic to quality relationships, and it is the basis of quality leadership practice as well. Although this may seem simplistic, understanding relational skills is key for leading well in the team context.
Relational Skills and Emotional Intelligence
In recent decades, leadership researchers have identified the importance of emotional intelligence for leadership practice. At the core of emotional intelligence are skills that support intrapersonal and interpersonal engagement. In his discussion of emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman emphasized factors such as empathy and social skills, premised on self-awareness. These factors provide a basis for effective relational skills. Self-awareness leading to an awareness of and responsiveness to the needs of others provides a platform on which effective leaders may appropriately humanize the leader-follower relational engagement.
Self-Awareness, Empathy, and Authentic Listening
The themes of self-awareness, empathy, and authentic listening were also highlighted by the research participants in my study on the topic, noting these as important characteristics of effective relational skills. One participant noted that empathetic communication, personal connection, selective vulnerability, and attention to what motivates followers are all critical relational skills. Other participants emphasized items such as:
- The importance of authentic listening,
- A commitment to fairness and equality,
- The ability to tolerate and accept appropriate differences,
- The importance of knowing oneself well in order to relate authentically with others,
- The embodiment of confidence blended with the ability to see future possibilities and communicate the most appropriate path to get there
- Creating a sense of safety and support for followers,
- Demonstrating care and kindness,
- Reinforcing a commitment to the working relationship, and
- Maintaining an open and approachable posture toward followers.
All of these themes comprise key relational skills that help foster positive leader-follower relationships.
Although leaders at times may like to work in the background simply dealing with systems and structures, engaging organizational members, team members, and direct reports with relational intelligence is vital. How are you nurturing your relational skills? How are you engaging followers with wisdom and a spirit of understanding?
Related Posts for the 9 Effective Leadership Practices:
|Cluster One — Beginning with Authentic Leaders|
|Cluster Two — Understanding the Priority of People|
|Cluster Three — Helping Followers Navigate toward Effectiveness|
Note: For those wanting to dig a bit deeper, please check out my article entitled “A Model for Effective Servant Leadership Practice.”