How Do Great Leaders Connect?

How many times have you heard that the key to leadership is staying cool, reserved, and perhaps even a bit distant so that we can remain independent in our thinking and actions? If you answered, “quite a few,” you’re not alone. That’s what we are taught.

In financial, legal and business management courses—the breeding grounds for many senior executives and especially CEOs—we are taught to govern our emotions. We are told that there is already enough ambiguity in managing people, so keep our messy emotions out of it.

It’s Time to Challenge that Belief

Soldiers don’t charge hills because of a plan or strategy. They are moved to action because of passionate, connected leaders who have a plan and strategy. The same happens in business. Too many executives distrust or stifle their emotions and the emotions of their followers.

The truth is, we make decisions emotionally and rationalize them intellectually. This is why we read the brochures with all of the specifications after we have bought the car or the new appliance. Our kitchens and garages are full of emotional decisions, not logical ones. Emotions are more powerful than logic.

Throughout most of history, research in decision theory and behavioral science has given little notice to emotions. However, beginning in the 1970s, researchers opened up to the notion that emotions play a powerful role in our choices, even more powerful than our rational thinking. Now, we have many studies that confirm the theory that emotions can often be the defining influence in decision-making, easily outweighing logic.

Break Down Barriers

The good news is that emotions can help us overcome barriers.

Connecting with people and then connecting people to the organization are central to the action plan of being a great, emotionally present leader. Emotions matter greatly in leadership because when we connect with individuals on an emotional level, we discover what propels them to action and marshals their resolve. Once we know what motivates people, we can use those emotions to tie what we want from them to what they want for themselves. When we connect with people as humans, we set the stage to connect them to our organizational mission.

In this article I will tackle connecting with people. In another article, I’ll cover how to connect people to the organization.

Connecting With

Connecting with simply means the ability to reach someone’s heart as well as their mind. We don’t pledge our greatest passion to a good business plan; we put forth our greatest effort and energy to people who are passionate about their business. We don’t lay in front of trains or jump over waterfalls for a good business plan, but we will reach pretty deeply and “give our all” when we feel really connected with a great leader.

Great Leaders Connect with Emotions

If you want to truly connect with others, be emotionally present.

But How?

The answer lies in having a genuine, even boundless, enthusiasm and passion for your business and what it can do for others. People are drawn to purpose, to something that excites them, and to something that gives them a sense of worth and vigor. Leaders, that must start with you!

Two Steps to Connection

First, honestly examine yourself and the reasons why you are in your current career. Determine the purpose of your organization and how you fit into the bigger picture. By understanding your role and what gets you excited about your career, you will discover the emotions that inspire you to be a better leader. The point is to dig deep—below the job description or the annual company strategy and business plan.

Answer these questions about your career and where you work.

  1. Why did you choose the profession you are in?
  2. What do you see as the larger purpose for your enterprise?
  3. What lights you up?
  4. Where do you get the greatest satisfaction in what your company does for others?

Second, take your answers to those questions and create a two-minute heartfelt, emotional and passionate speech. Edit it. Rewrite it. Practice it. (Hire a coach to help you like I did. It made all the difference!)

Then, when you interact with others at your organization, just be your natural human self as you show people why you are in this business and why you love it. Your speech should be the real you. The goal is to fall in love with your business again and let others watch, seeing your passion.

Great leaders connect with people on an emotional level by telling their stories.

Be an Emotionally Present Leader!