Leaders, like businesses and people themselves, come in all shapes and sizes. You can find countless examples
of ways to categorize leadership styles, as well as quizzes highlighting what kind of leader you are. While these are often fun, instructive exercises, there are certain qualities that all leaders can benefit from possessing, no matter their personality or temperament, or the nature of their role within an organization. Chief among these virtues is connectedness.
The idea that a good leader is one who empathizes with and empowers their charges is a relatively new idea. Traditional business organizations often relied on a strict chain-of-command approach, where the boss’s rule was law and the employees simply had to deal with it. However, leadership has seen a sea change across all sectors in recent years. Leaders these days are more inclined to jump off their pedestals and get closer to the same level as the people whom they lead. When Steve Nash was recently appointed coach of the Brooklyn Nets, he said we wanted to create a “collaborative
” environment with his players. Business leaders should be trying to do the exact same thing.
In accounting, a profession that’s often at the cutting edge of technology, we are also often late to the party when it comes to rethinking the organizational, interpersonal, and cultural aspects of our firms. These updates are just as important as moving to the cloud or opting for a new tech solution. There’s no better time than now for leaders to embrace a more contemporary approach when it comes to how they interact with their team members. That process starts by becoming more connected.
When we talk about how connected a leadership structure is, we can assess a few different factors. One of the easiest is to look at connection on a structural level. How many people does a leader oversee? How often do they speak with them? How much direct oversight and collaboration do they have over the work of their team members? These easy-to-answer questions all provide a hint as to how leaders behave. In general, the more hierarchical an org chart
is, the less connected it will be. That’s not to say that you should seek to create a totally egalitarian free for all, but you should ask yourself where structures are too rigid and leaders can be brought in closer contact with the people they oversee.
No matter the nature of your leadership structure, everyone can benefit from an increased interpersonal connectedness. Leaders who take credit, deflect blame, and don’t give their team a chance to collaborate and influence decisions are the opposite of open. Those who are transparent, ask questions, take feedback, and empower their troops stand on the other end of the spectrum. One of my favorite ways to think about a leader’s openness is their “intellectual humility
.” An intellectually humble leader is open to other viewpoints no matter how successful they are, they view situations objectively, and they never assume they don’t have room to grow.
When you strive to connect with your people, rather than simply to manage or control them, you open up avenues for growth on both sides of the equation. Team members become empowered to do their best work, to find new sources or inspiration, and to take ownership of their role. Leaders become trusted to steer the ship, to challenge people to be better, and to unlock potential in others. Connected leadership puts everyone on the same page, making them function as one. When leadership is connected, nobody goes through the motions.
In my talk at this year’s INCPAS Convention
, I’ll talk about ways connected leadership has mattered in my life, how we can all be more connected in our leadership, and why that will benefit every member of your team through times of change. I look forward to seeing you there.