Regular Maintenance Required.

There’s a nonprofit organization I’m particularly fond of that’s facing a leadership crisis.

After many years of success, healthy membership and participation, it’s now in a period of decline. Some would say it’s a recent occurrence, but I’d suggest the warning signs have been there for a long time. The downward transition really began, as they all do, with a change in the way people “felt.” (Key people. People who’ve been the organization’s stalwart supporters for years.) When feelings of disconnectedness, waning commitment, apathy, or “just going through the motions” arise, leaders need to pick up on these vibes and act quickly. How fast and how far it falls … only time will tell?

Admittedly, a shift in feelings is harder to detect than factors that show up on a spreadsheet, like the metrics of revenue, or attendance. But I believe discontent (with your product, or service, or your leadership style) will always precede performance measurables. Feelings are leading indicators, and they can best be detected early when leaders regularly interact with others, soliciting their opinions, insights, fears and concerns – fostering understanding and getting feedback. Organizations either go up, or down, based on how people feel. Don’t depend on your accounting department to give you a heads up. Get ahead of the curve.

Why is leadership faltering? Let’s start at the top.

One of the primary reasons this organization is in trouble is because its senior leader has failed to value relationships. There’s been virtually no investment in getting to know people, truly listening to them, and sincerely building the human bonds which support every organizational objective, goal, mission, vision, or imperative. Relationships are linked to successful leadership. You can’t be hiding out in your office, or slipping in and out of the back door.

Introversion is just an excuse.

If you have a leadership role, you’re paid to know your people, care for your people, be engaged with them, and build strong relationships all the way down the line. This requires regular maintenance. Day after day. Month after month. Year after year. Don’t get caught up in the excuse of “I’m an introvert.” Lots of us are. But we can still create the commitment we need to support our leadership agenda by fully investing ourselves into the people we lead.

This is not something you can put a little effort into once a month, or once a quarter. It’s not an occasional event. It’s your daily work. Neglect it at your own peril. So if you haven’t yet made this a point of emphasis as a leader – be warned, start now. You may be late, but hopefully not too late.

To achieve your goals, you need relationships.

– Jerry Strom

Twitter: @JerryRStrom.

For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published. This article is based on the *‘The Buddy Study: The Linkage between Leadership and Relationships,’ by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find short insights on Twitter at #RelationshipsRPT

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