It took me a long time to truly understand that relationships are the heart of leading people. This might sound obvious, but as a young leader, I was taught how to manage people. It sounds pretty outlandish now, the concept of actually “managing” people when the truth is you build and nurture relationships in reality.
When you are leading from your higher self there are numerous ways to get the most out of yourself and others through the quality and depth of your relationships. Viewing the way you connect and interpret relationships through different lenses can demonstrate just how valuable relationships are.
You can use relationships to grow yourself and others. You can build communities through shared purpose. Fostering positive and collaborative relationships can create positive outcomes whether for the team, organisation or the world. Undoubtedly when you recognise relationships are the heart of growth for the individuals in the relationship but also deepen awareness of unity consciousness, you realise they are worth understanding and working on them. For all those reasons it’s clear relationships are at the heart of higher self leadership.
Why People Form Relationships
As humans relationships are the heart of and at the core of our existence and people form relationships for many reasons. Depending on the depth of these relationships, people will get different payoffs for those relationships. Here is an example of some of them.
- Emotional support: People form relationships to receive emotional support from others. This can include support during difficult times, encouragement, and a listening ear.
- Companionship: People form relationships to have someone to share their experiences with. This might be to have fun and to feel a sense of belonging.
- Intimacy: People form relationships to share physical and emotional intimacy with someone they care about.
- Love: People form relationships to experience love and to have someone to love in return.
- Security: People form relationships to feel safe and secure, both emotionally and physically.
- Shared values: People form relationships with others with similar values, beliefs, and goals.
- A sense of purpose: People form relationships to feel like they have a sense of purpose. This might be building a family, working towards a common goal, or pursuing a shared passion.
- Networking: People form relationships to expand their network of contacts. Networks can be both personal and professional.
- Personal growth: People form relationships to learn from others. They can challenge themselves, and grow as individuals.
- Procreation: People form relationships to have children and build a family.
These are just a few of the many purposes of why people form relationships. Different individuals may have different reasons for forming relationships, depending on their personal circumstances and goals.
Connecting As A Leader
Whether you are considering work and/or personal relationships there is one common critical component, the ability to connect with others. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business environment, leaders who lead from their higher selves recognize that relationships are at the heart of being successful. They realise that connecting with others is a key skill.
According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership, leaders who develop high-quality relationships with their employees are more likely to have engaged, committed, and motivated teams. Moreover, strong relationships with stakeholders, clients, and partners can lead to increased trust, loyalty, and collaboration. Ultimately these relationships result in improved business outcomes. However, there are spin-offs in that the ability to develop strong relationships results in growing and developing self-awareness.
Developing Self-Awareness Through Relationships
Relationships are an excellent tool for leaders who lead from their higher selves to develop self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to understand one’s strengths, weaknesses, values, and emotions. Developing self-awareness is crucial for leaders because it helps them recognize their blind spots, make better decisions, and relate to others more effectively.
Through relationships, leaders can gain valuable feedback and insights into their behaviours, attitudes, and impact on others. For example, a leader who is prone to micromanaging might receive feedback from their team that their behaviour is causing frustration and disengagement. This feedback can help the leader recognize their behaviour and work to change it. Here are two distinct ways to develop self-awareness through relationships.
1. Relationships As Mirrors
Leaders can use their relationships as mirrors. These mirrors reflect back to them things they need to know about themselves. This is because the people around them can provide valuable feedback and insights into their behaviour, attitudes, and leadership style.
Just as a mirror reflects a person’s physical appearance, relationships can reflect a leader’s strengths and weaknesses, blind spots, and areas for improvement. When leaders build strong relationships with their team members, colleagues, and mentors, they create a safe and supportive environment where they can receive honest feedback and learn more about themselves.
For example, if a leader is known for being too critical or not listening to others, team members may provide feedback that helps the leader recognize this behaviour and work to improve it. Similarly, if a leader is perceived as being a good listener and collaborator, team members may provide positive feedback that reinforces these strengths.
By using relationships as mirrors, leaders can gain a deeper understanding of themselves. They will recognise their impact on others, and how they can improve as leaders. This can help them build stronger relationships. In turn, this creates a more positive workplace culture. With these factors in place, better results are inevitable.
2. Recognising Yourself in Others
Generally, people can learn about themselves by recognizing aspects of themselves they either like or do not like in others through a process called projection. Projection is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual unconsciously projects their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours onto others.
When people observe traits or behaviours in others that they admire or respect, it may indicate that they possess those same traits or behaviours themselves. This recognition can be a source of inspiration and motivation to develop those qualities further.
On the other hand, when people observe traits or behaviours in others that they find irritating or frustrating, it may indicate that they possess those same traits or behaviours themselves but may be unaware of them. This recognition can be an opportunity for self-reflection and introspection to identify areas where they can improve themselves.
For example, if someone admires a colleague for their ability to remain calm under pressure, it may indicate that they have the same capacity for emotional regulation. Recognizing this similarity can inspire them to develop this quality in themselves.
Similarly, if someone is annoyed by a friend’s tendency to interrupt others, it may indicate that they have the same behaviour but are unaware of it. Recognizing this similarity can lead to introspection and self-reflection to identify areas for improvement.
People can gain insight into their own behaviour and thought patterns by putting relationships at the heart of their own development and recognizing aspects of themselves they either like or do not like in others. This can help them become more self-aware, develop their strengths, and address areas for improvement.
Building Unity Consciousness Through Relationships
Unity consciousness epitomises positive higher self leadership. When leading through a lens of unity leadership becomes inclusive, win/win and gets inspired results. As a leader you can deepen unity consciousness through relationships in the following way:
- Building Trust: Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. You must make efforts to build and maintain trust with your team members. You can do this by being transparent, communicating clearly, and following through on commitments.
- Encouraging Open Communication: Encouraging open and honest communication creates an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. You should create spaces for team members to share their perspectives. You must listen actively, and show empathy.
- Fostering a Sense of Community: You can foster a sense of community by encouraging collaboration, celebrating successes, and recognizing the unique contributions of each team member. You can also create opportunities for team members to get to know each other on a personal level, such as through team-building activities or social events.
- Emphasizing Shared Goals and Values: You can deepen unity consciousness by emphasizing shared goals and values. When team members understand the common purpose and values they share, they are more likely to work together towards a common goal.
- Modelling Unity Consciousness: Finally, you can model unity consciousness by demonstrating compassion, inclusivity, and a commitment to social justice. Leaders who prioritize unity consciousness in their own behaviour can inspire their team members to do the same.
How To Build Relationships
Building relationships is not always easy, but with some good intentions and activities, you can always make progress. Here are some ways to strengthen your relationships at work.
1. Seek feedback from others
You should actively seek feedback from people you trust, such as colleagues, mentors, and coaches. Honest feedback can help you identify areas for improvement and gain insights into how you are perceived by others.
2. Surround Yourself with diverse perspectives
You should intentionally build relationships with people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives than your own. This can help broaden your understanding of the world. It will expose you to new ideas and ways of thinking.
3. Collaborate and engage in team-building activities
Running team-building activities and encouraging collaboration within your team are really powerful ways not only to build the team but to signal to the team that relationships are the heart of the team. This can help build trust and foster open communication. In turn, this leads to more productive and creative work.
4. Practice empathy
You should practice empathy and actively listen to the needs and concerns of others. This can help build stronger relationships and better understand the experiences of the people you lead.
5. Learn from mistakes
You should be willing to admit when you make mistakes and use those experiences as opportunities for growth and learning. This can help you become more self-aware and build resilience.
By leveraging your relationships in these ways, you can learn and grow into your true self. You can grow into operating from your higher self. This can ultimately lead to more effective leadership and positive outcomes for your organisation.
Tools To Assess The Quality and Depth Of Relationships
Tools to support putting relationships at the heart of our own and others’ development can be really useful. There are many out there, and here I outline two models which can help you to assess and redefine the quality and depth of your relationships. This is useful for both relationships at home and at work.
1. Relationship Quality Model
One model that can be used to recognize when relationships are working and identify the components of a relationship is the “Relationship Quality Model” developed by Morgan and Hunt in 1994. This model highlights the key elements that contribute to relationship quality, including:
- Trust: This refers to the belief that one can rely on the other party to act in their best interest and fulfil their commitments.
- Commitment: This refers to the level of dedication and loyalty that each party has towards the relationship.
- Satisfaction: This refers to the overall level of contentment and fulfilment that each party experiences in the relationship.
- Communication: This refers to the exchange of information, ideas, and feelings between parties, and the degree to which communication is open, honest, and effective.
- Perceived fairness: This refers to the perception that each party is receiving equitable treatment in the relationship, with both parties benefiting equally.
Assessing the model
By assessing these elements, leaders can gauge the quality of their relationships and identify areas for improvement. For example, if a leader notices a lack of trust in a relationship, they can build transparency and consistency to increase trust. If satisfaction is low, they can explore ways to increase engagement and fulfilment.
Furthermore, the Relationship Quality Model suggests that these elements are interrelated and influence each other. For example, higher levels of trust may lead to higher levels of commitment, which in turn may lead to increased satisfaction. By recognizing these interdependencies, leaders can focus on improving the key elements that will have the most significant impact on the relationship’s overall quality.
2. The Social Penetration Theory
The Social Penetration Theory was developed by psychologists Irwin Altman and Dalmas Taylor in the 1970s. This theory suggests that as people interact, their relationship moves from superficial and non-intimate to deeper and more intimate. The theory proposes that relationships develop through four stages:
- Orientation: In this stage, people exchange basic information about themselves, such as their names, occupation and interests. The interaction is usually superficial and the parties do not reveal much personal information.
- Exploratory affective: In this stage, people start to share more personal information about themselves, such as their likes, dislikes, and opinions. The interaction becomes more intimate, and people begin to reveal more about their personalities and values.
- Affective: In this stage, people become more comfortable with each other and start to share their emotions and feelings. The interaction becomes more personal, and people begin to reveal more profound aspects of their personalities.
- Stable: In this stage, people have reached a high level of intimacy, and their relationship is deep and meaningful. The interaction is based on mutual trust and understanding, and the parties involved feel comfortable revealing their most intimate thoughts and feelings.
According to the Social Penetration Theory, the depth of a relationship is determined by the level of intimacy achieved between the parties involved. The theory suggests that the depth of the relationship is determined by the level of disclosure and self-disclosure that occurs between the parties involved. As they share more personal information about themselves, the relationship becomes deeper and more intimate.
Assessing the Model
Leaders can use the Social Penetration Theory to assess the depth of their relationships with their employees, colleagues, or other stakeholders. By analyzing the level of disclosure and self-disclosure that occurs in their interactions, leaders can determine the stage of the relationship and identify areas for improvement. For example, if a leader notices that their interactions with an employee are still in the orientation stage, they can work on building rapport and trust to move the relationship to the next stage, if that feels like an appropriate way to go.
Relationships are the heart of leadership and if you can consider the multi-dimensional benefits of building, nurturing and learning from relationships and put activities like this into practice, you cannot fail to build your leadership skills and be truly inspiring.
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