7 Things Relationally Intelligent Leaders Do

Business Coaching

She was a difficult boss. I cannot call her a leader because she didn’t have any followers. She was just a boss who gave a lot of orders and required compliance to all of her rules. If I was 30 seconds late from my 30-minute lunch, she docked my pay. I could not leave my desk to go to the ladies’ room or get a drink of water without informing her. Mistakes of any kind were not tolerated, and she convinced me and her other employees that if we made an error, we were likely to be fired. After all, in an environment like that, everyone is replaceable. It was my first job and though I had little to compare it to, I was sure that there were better opportunities, and I went and found one.

At my next company, where I remained for 33 years, my work life was a lot different. I worked for several leaders who were more concerned about my commitment to the principles of the organization than compliance to a stack of rules. More importantly, they cared about me, personally and professionally. Over time, the care translated to influence, and their influence attracted and retained extraordinary talent that grew a successful business.

Relationships matter.

How we manage relationships matters even more. In the marketplace today, we know there are too many jobs and not enough people. Talent is in high demand, so leaders have to be very skilled at attracting and keeping their talent. To do that well, a leader must be relationally intelligent.

The most relationally intelligent leaders understand the unique needs of each team member and the individual goals and dreams of each person on the team.

 What do relationally intelligent leaders do differently?

1. They listen better.

Leaders skilled in relational intelligence listen intently to team members. It is easy to see they are listening because they put down their devices, sit on the edge of the seat and lean in, look the other person in the eye, smile appropriately and nod with interest. Furthermore, these leaders consider ideas that are presented and act on them.

 2. They give feedback often.

Many leaders don’t slow down to give team members positive recognition or corrective feedback. Relationally intelligent leaders are quick to share the credit and offer praise to others. They also spend time with team members coaching performance and helping those team members improve and maximize performance.

 3. They say “thank you” frequently.

Team members are motivated by sincere gratitude. Leaders with high relational intelligence express gratitude not only to team members, but to their own leaders, peers and customers too. In fact, gratitude is usually a signature character trait of a relationally intelligent leader.

 4. They arrive early and leave late.

Whatever the occasion, whether it’s a meeting, an event or a lunch appointment, relationally intelligent leaders are the first to arrive and the last to leave. They show up early to be both prompt and use the time to engage with others present. When the dinner, meeting or event is over, these types of leaders are the last to leave. They stay late simply to make themselves available to anyone who needs them.

 5. They care more.

Leaders possessing strong relational intelligence skills care deeply. They care about results, but they care about relationships too. They balance support with accountability. The caring extends beyond the professional realm and they care about team members as individuals as well. These leaders know the goals and dreams of their team members and help them achieve professional and personal goals.

 6. They are self-aware.

Relationally intelligent leaders understand that their impact can be different than their intent. They constantly seek feedback to ensure that there is not a gap between their intentions and their impact. They don’t hide from their weaknesses, nor wallow in them, but instead, they understand them and attempt to minimize them.

 7. They take good care of themselves so they can take better care of others.

Being a relationally intelligent leader takes a lot of energy, and leaders with this skill know how to manage their own energy. They exercise, eat well and get enough sleep so they are physically available to others. They nurture themselves spiritually, mentally and socially so that they are emotionally available to others. They are very in tune with when they need time alone to recharge.

Without relational intelligence, we have no influence. Without influence, we have no followers and, therefore, are really not leaders at all. The ability to create, strengthen and grow relationships is the most critical leadership skill to pursue.

What actions can you take today to improve this vitally critical skill in your leadership?

Dee Ann Turner

Author; Speaker; Former Vice President of Talent and Sustainability

Chick-fil-A, Inc

Dee Ann Turner played an intricate role in creating and growing the incredible, influential culture at Chick-fil-A. With 30 years of experience developing corporate talent, she served as Vice President of Talent and later Vice President of Sustainability. Turner’s insightful knowledge is revealed in her book, Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture and Win the Hearts of Customers. She is now CEO of Dee Ann Turner, LLC and shares her knowledge with clients globally. She serves on several boards and frequently participates in mission projects throughout the world.