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One Thing That Makes or Breaks a Leader

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

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.

11 Comments

  1. Augustin N'dah on September 17, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Great ingredients for true communication for all and at all spheres of life. So, there is need to learn how connect better with others.
    Thanks.

  2. Beybunui Ngum on September 18, 2019 at 4:36 am

    Thanks. Since I read the book Everyone Communicates………………, my communication skill has been improving. I will keep on learning and taking action because my desire is being an impactful leader.

  3. Dawda sambou on September 18, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Really insightful, I love this.

    • Sunday Uroupagha on September 18, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      Great of track for being connected, i love this one i will keep it up. Thanks!

  4. […] One Thing That Makes or Breaks a Leader […]

  5. Ernesto C. Magdayao,Sr. on September 18, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Excellent

  6. Florence on September 20, 2019 at 4:14 am

    How do I get the book

    • Jason Brooks on September 20, 2019 at 11:18 am

      Florence–if you’ll click on the title of the book, the link will send you to the John Maxwell online store, where you can order a copy.

  7. Michal on September 22, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Communication is essential and skill to connect is essential too. But these “1 thing for anything complex” and “simplifying too much” is usually tricky. Do you mean something like cultivating loving kindness? What if someone is really egoistic or has not that great character? Being able to connect might create some short-term wins, especially for the not-that-great-character leader, but in the long-term all sides lose with quite high probability. So isn’t great character and cultivating it more important? Isn’t the ability to connect with others a consequence of having great character?

    • Jason Brooks on September 24, 2019 at 9:19 am

      Michal–you’re spot on that cultivating character is essential for genuine connection, but the skill of connecting with others still needs to be cultivated! I’m personally an introverted leader, so while I’m hyper-vigilant about my character, and while I have some natural connection abilities, I spend a lot of time working on how I can better connect with others. John works on both simultaneously, and I’m learning to watch what he does and find my own pathway through his example.

  8. […] Vía | John Maxwell […]

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