One Thing That Makes or Breaks a Leader

In my book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently, I share one of the most overlooked aspects of leadership. If you’ve read the book, you know where I’m going, but if you haven’t read the book, let me tell you—you don’t want to miss this thought.

In fact, it’s the one thing that makes or breaks a leader, and it’s worth sharing again, so here we go:

Connection.

Leaders cannot succeed in life without communicating effectively. It’s not enough for them to just work hard; it’s not enough to do a great job. To be successful, you must learn how to really communicate with others, and that means learning how to connect with them.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Have you ever gotten frustrated during a presentation because people just weren’t “getting it”?
  • Have you ever wanted a raise, and needed your boss to understand just how much value you bring to the company?
  • Have you ever wanted your kids to really listen so you could help them make wise choices?
  • Have you ever wanted to improve your relationship with a friend, a peer, or someone within your community?

Those are all communication challenges, and the key to communication is connection. If you can’t find a way to communicate effectively, you will have untapped potential everywhere you go.

After decades of marriage, public speaking, leading organizations, and developing and mentoring other leaders, I can say this confidently:

If you want to succeed, you must learn how to connect with others. If you can connect with others at every level—one-on-one, in groups, with an audience—you have the capacity for strengthening your relationships, increasing your sense of community, generating teamwork, and multiplying your productivity.

In my book, I defined connection as the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them. I talk often about connection beginning with finding common ground with others, but it’s also about finding common ideas and common language that helps secure and extend the connection beyond the moment.

I would say that connection needs:

  • A values match—you need to find a common set of beliefs on what is wise or good.
  • A vision match—you need to find a common future or desire that you want to work toward.
  • A venture match—you need to find a common desire to do actual work that builds on the values and achieves the vision.

How much healthier would your relationships be if you excelled at connecting?

Would your relationship with your significant other improve? Would your relationships with your kids?

What about your co-workers or neighbors?

I could go on and on about this idea—which is why there’s an entire book on the subject! Helping leaders learn the vital importance of connecting with people is one of my passions.

Communication is my gifting, but connection is a skill that I have honed over time in order to make the most of my gift. Anyone can learn to connect if they’ll be intentional about it; and anyone who wants to live an intentional life understands the benefit that connecting with others brings.

I don’t do this in all of my blogs, but this feels like a good spot for a call to action. Take a few minutes today and do the following:

  1. Evaluate your connection skills. Where do they need improving? Where are they strongest?
  2. Spend some time reflecting about some of your most recent conversations; did you search for common values, or vision, or a venture? What did you do to make the other people feel connected with you?

The one thing that makes or breaks a leader is the ability to connect with others. The further along in leadership and life we go, the more effective we must become at connecting with people.

Our success depends on it.

John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, coach, and author who has sold over 19 million books. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP and the John Maxwell Company, organizations that have trained more than 5 million leaders worldwide.

Every year he speaks to Fortune 500 companies, international government leaders, and organizations as diverse as the United States Military Academy at West Point, the National Football League, and the United Nations. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books which have each sold more than one million copies: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. You can find him at JohnMaxwell.com and follow him at Twitter.com/JohnCMaxwell.

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