Creating & Nurturing Productive Leadership Relationships

Leadership is influence — nothing more, nothing less

John Maxwell

Our progress in life as leaders greatly depends on the kind of relationships we decide to build and keep. 

People who don’t care about creating and nurturing relationships “will go just far” — there’s a limit to how much they can achieve and how far they can go in their leadership life [and life in general.]

And as career-conscious people, leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and community builders there’s what is called “Leadership Relationship” — the kind of relationship you deliberately build to help you grow as a leader. Relationships that enable you to develop the right qualities leaders need to survive up there, to remain effective and strong.

You consciously look out for people who are more experienced than you — who have been to where you are aspiring to be — who are doing what you would love to do and you connect with them [directly or indirectly] learning from them and applying the things you learn from them to your leadership endeavors. 

Do not just be on the lookout for people who are obviously bigger, greater, and more experienced than you, but also be on the watch for people who are under you, those you lead, who look unto you for leadership, guidance, and direction, there is also a lot to learn from them, hence you must also be deliberate when it comes to building relationships with these set of people.

Most of the time, we ‘over’ fix our focus on connecting with people who are above and higher. We feel that they are the only ones we can learn from. That’s wrong, so wrong. Learning can be horizontal and vertical. To learn, we have to look up, and as well look down and look around and look inside.

Productive Leadership Relationships

While writing this article, during my little research, I came across a couple of interesting researches and articles that investigated and talked about the importance of leadership relationships to the growth and development of leaders, and here’s what I found:

  • One of the most important leadership skills leaders should have or develop is Relationship Management — how to discover productive relationships, connect to them, nurture them and keep them long enough.
  • A lot of bright, intelligent, vision-stuffed, dream-full leaders fail because they do not know how to develop the right relationships. 
  • Another vital skill leaders must have or develop to a “laser-sharp nature ” is the rare ability to detect relationships that can destroy you and your vision as a leader. These parasitic relationships have nothing to offer. The ability to quickly detect them and cut yourself free from them will save you from a lot of troubles and heartaches — believe me. Some people are out there to prey on your energy and intelligence. They have nothing to offer, instead, they suck you dry and leave you empty. Keep them far away from you — far away.
  • How to know when a relationship has served its purpose in your life. Now, this is a tricky one, very tricky. I will elaborate more on this towards the end of this article.

Leadership is more than a role or position. It’s bigger than your CEO chair, Manager Seat, or Founder Position.

Leadership is all about relationships. Nothing will ever change this truth.

Leaders who realize this early in their leadership careers are the ones that go far [as I said earlier, and that’s an important lesson to take away from this article].

How To Create & Nurture Leadership Relationships: Practical Steps

  • Be On The Lookout: You should know what you want. If you don’t, then that’s an assignment for you. When you know what you want as a leader, it’s easier to benefit from relationships because each relationship is unique. There should be something special about every relationship in your life as a leader. The less important relationships are kept “in a place.” While the important ones are deliberately worked on. 

  • Understanding Influence: You must know that whatever relationship you decide to go into will have influence over you. It will either be a good or bad one. So, if you don’t want to be influenced unpleasantly, you know what to do — stay away from such relationships. Look for relationships that will influence you positively. If you admire the discipline of a particular person, then you try to build a relationship with them and start learning from them. 

  • Access: Direct and indirect access to people. In indirect access, you may not have the opportunity to interact with those you want to learn from, maybe due to their status in the community, nevertheless, you can still learn from them. If they have a platform or channel where they express their thoughts, then you need to be on that platform [even if it means paying to be part of it sometimes]. Subscribe to their newsletters, read their blogs, listen to their podcasts, buy their books, and attend their workshops and seminar. Indirect relationships are normally formed with individuals who have a sort of celebrity status, those who are famous — the big names. Only very few people have direct access to them. However, if you are privileged to have direct access to them you can apply the principles below. Direct access applies to people who you can easily interact with, either on social media or physically. They know you and will interact with you.

Please take note of this friends. You don’t always have to focus on famous people and celebrities. There are wonderful everyday people around you who have a lot to offer, you just need to detect them and start building a relationship with them.

  • Listen Carefully & Ask Intelligent Questions: Naturally, intelligent people will attract attention. When you get the opportunity to interact with people, always listen carefully to what they have to share with you. And be ready to ask them questions or answer questions if you are asked. In any relationship, bonds get stronger when both parties show genuine interest in each other. And one way to know that someone has an interest in you is in the quality of listening, the questions they ask you, and how they answer the questions you ask them. If you ever want to keep any relationship healthy, be there to listen and ask questions if you have any, and be ready to answer if any are thrown at you.

  • Build Shared Values: Anybody can become the friend of Elon Musk or Bill Gates, it just depends on how much value you can add to their lives [big values if you ask me]. We appreciate people who add value to our lives, it’s just natural. Through a book, blog, or activity, you can add so much value to the lives of people that it can become global and before you know it you are attracting big people to your network. To keep leadership relationships healthy and strong, make sure you bring value into that relationship. Don’t just take, take and take, also give, and contribute to the growth of that relationship. People who always receive and never give will always be at the bottom of the food chain. A relationship is all about sharing, and sharing is never a one-way affair.

  • Communicate Effectively & Provide Useful And Genuine Feedback: Relationships thrive on effective communication, especially direct relationships. You can’t claim to be in a healthy relationship with me and you never communicate with me, you don’t send me messages or emails or texts, you don’t call, you don’t do anything. Effective Communication makes it impossible for people to forget you. When you are constantly reaching out to me. This is what makes the email system one of the most potent business communication tools on the planet, followed by social media. Successful businesses have mastered the art of communicating with their workers and customers. Successful people have also mastered this art. If you want a relationship to last long, make sure you are always communicating. And in addition to communicating effectively, try to provide genuine feedback. This is part of the value we add to people who interact with us. We desire to grow, which is why we take the time to build and nurture relationships. And useful and genuine feedback that comes from the heart of someone who loves you is priceless. They are the ones who can evaluate you, and they do it from a distance. Having people in your life who will wholeheartedly reveal to you what they think about you is a gift all leaders must pray for. And you, on the other hand, make sure you are always providing genuine feedback to those who are in your community. They see your feedback and sincere criticism as a form of value that they are enjoying and will do all that they can to ensure the relationship lasts longer.

Understand Influence, Understand Leadership

Leadership is more than a role or position. It’s bigger than your CEO chair, Manager Seat, or Founder Position.

Without influence, there’s no leadership. 

If you are a leader who can’t influence people, then you are not great after all. 

The vehicle that transports influence is ‘relationship’. Without it, you won’t be able to make people act the way you want them to or do the things that will make them release their potential.

You are where you are right now because of the type of influence you have had in the past. Someone influenced you to take that career decision. Someone may have also influenced your religious decision, and every other aspect of your life has come under the pressure of influence, one way or the other.

If you can understand the importance of influence to leadership, you will find it easy in your leadership endeavors.

Relationships Do Come To An End, Sadly

“Twenty boys can’t play ball for twenty years.”

This is obvious, there are relationships you can keep for a year, two, three, ten or more, or even a lifetime.

Some relationships will not last up to six months.

Leaders [and people in general, besides we are all leaders] must know when it’s time for a relationship to come to an end.

Don’t try to give it an extra life [especially when it’s dying a natural death].

Let it go.

It might have fulfilled its role in your life. Just makes sure it comes to an end on good grounds. And keep the link strong, just in case. Don’t be the “bridge burner.”

It’s Time To Build and Pull Down

It’s time to build and pull down. 

Look around you, and be sincere with yourself.

There are relationships you have neglected that need to be revived now. 

And there are some relationships that are hurting and pulling you down that you need to eliminate right now!

Don’t be sorry for anyone, be sorry for yourself. This is all about your growth and development as a leader.

If you keep pampering bad relationships, a day will surely come when those bad relationships will hurt and scar you.

Time is life, and it’s too precious to waste on things that will make it difficult or impossible for you to achieve your goals as a leader.

Do you have friends who constantly influence you to use company funds for personal pleasures, while the company lacks in many ways? If you have these kinds of friends around you, I want you to know that you won’t go far — terminate such relationships now. 

Relationships that inspire and motivate you to do the wrong things should not have any space in your life. Cut them down.

When you hear of scandals in industries, companies, and businesses, we tend to focus on the perpetrators and forget that they had people around them who aided and abated them, people who they were in cahoots with, who encouraged, and inspired them to do the wrong things they did.

And the same principle applies to those who have done great things in their various companies and industries. They had the right relationships, they had people cheering and urging them on to do the right thing.

It’s All About Relationships

Our progress in life as leaders greatly depends on the kind of relationships we decide to build and keep. 

When you find the right relationships that fit your values as a leader, make sure you give all you can to make sure you enjoy them and they last long enough.

Do you have leadership principles that work for you? Would you mind sharing them with us? Kindly do so in the comment section.


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