How To Leverage The #1 Trait of A Good Leader To Drive Your Team To Success

Being able to connect with others is a “soft skill” that can separate good leaders from great ones. Interpersonal skills are an essential leadership trait, and maybe, the top skill of truly successful leaders. When navigating relationships in business and professional life, it's paramount to find common ground, establish rapport, and identify mutual interests. This can lay the groundwork for the kind of successful negotiations where everyone feels like they've won.


It is critical for a leader to quickly find common ground, develop empathy for a colleague’s goals and motivations, and establish personal connections. This allows you to build relationship capital, the social currency that you will need to be successful. For example, good leaders that I know take a genuine interest in their team’s lives outside of work. Understand how they like to be celebrated, privately or publicly, what interests do they have that make them a whole person, and then offer them a space to share those interests with others. One example I’ve seen is when a member of the team took on a woodworking hobby to try and build some furniture. Others in the company were able to support with their own experience, some even lending tools and time to help elevate the work that may have been inaccessible to a beginner. Finding ways to support those interests and creating a space to share them not only shows genuine interest but also contributing ideas and suggestions to those topics, if genuine, helps to find common ground with peers and colleagues.


Whether you want to motivate your team to get the most out of their talents or connect with a peer in hopes of partnering on a project, the best way to lay a foundation for success is to establish a rapport with each individual. By demonstrating genuine interest in the individuals you work with, showing compassion for their challenges, and sharing joy in their success, you can build a base of trust. 


If you have trusting professional relationships, it can go a long way when it comes time to navigate difficult situations. 


You can build rapport with colleagues by identifying common hobbies or interests. But it is also important to recognize mutual business and professional interests in the service of achieving common goals. By emphasizing mutual interests, you are setting the stage for scenarios where all participants feel like they’ve won. Giving team members the opportunity to seek coaching and professional development, funded by the company, has a lot of value. Critically, sharing the learnings from the program back to the team can help center the team on establishing working relationships that are conducive to the goals and styles that each team member has identified during the coaching sessions. This creates better harmony and more effective working relationships between team members.

Successful leaders identify and develop strong interpersonal skills to be able to inspire compromise, motivate team members to pursue a common goal and encourage partners to drive towards outcomes that are a win for everyone involved. They don’t necessarily teach these skills in business school, but any leader worth their salt should find mentors who possess these skills and can model how to develop genuine relationships with employees, colleagues, and partners that result in the best outcomes for their businesses.

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