How can HR become 'connector leaders'?

'You need to lead with your head, as well as your heart, to connect the two'

How can HR become 'connector leaders'?

HR leaders are expected to be strategic, rational and focused on results. 

However, the role also relies heavily on motivating and developing people (remember, the word ‘human’ is in the title), according to the leadership coach, speaker, trainer and author, Michelle Sales.

“You need to lead with your head, as well as your heart, to connect the two, so you can, in turn, connect to other people: your team, boss, employees, customers and clients.”

Sales, who is also author of the whitepaper, The Connection Deficit: Why leaders must bring both head and heart to work to build trust, lift engagement and accelerate organisational results, said connected leaders are open to learning, and seeking feedback to grow their leadership. 

She added that connector leaders also operate under the knowledge that they don’t have all the answers – the people they have around them can enhance their knowledge and enable them to lead even more effectively. 

“They discuss future goals and tasks, as well as performance, with their team members, instead of burying it and hoping it will go away,” she said.

Sales added that it is these high-quality connections, which renowned author and speaker Amy Cuddy reports in Harvard Business Review, “drives new levels of effort, creativity, confidence, engagement and performance”. 

Sales outlines the three essential traits of connected leaders and how HR leaders can practice them: 

Be compassionate 

Employees feel greater trust with leaders who are compassionate. Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy and her research partner have shown that leaders who project warmth before establishing their competence are more effective than those who lead with toughness and skill. This is due to the trust that is created with warmth, kindness and compassion. 

Compassion implies an interpersonal closeness that comes with responsibility, vulnerability and an absence of self-interest. There is more than adequate evidence now that leaders who practise this, and where this is valued at work, create workplaces that people want to work in and are also very productive. That’s what we want right!

Be curious

Being curious and interested in your people is critical to building strong connections. As a leader, how else do you understand what drives and motivates your people if you are not curious? If you don’t invest the time in really getting to know them? 

This kind of curiosity about your people, your employees, as individuals allows you to coach and motivate them using strategies and tools that are right for them rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. It is also the key to identifying and retaining future talent. 

Curiosity requires a willingness to listen to others, to learn from them and to get really interested about the skills and different strengths they can bring to not just a team but the whole organisation.

Be humble 

Humility in leadership allows you to have an accurate perception of your strengths and weaknesses and to understand the needs of others. It allows you to recognise the contribution of others, which in turn means people feel valued.

One of the most thorough pieces of research on humility as a leadership trait was presented in Jim Collin’s Good to Great. He studied 1500 Fortune 500 companies that literally went from good to great over a 30-year period. His researchers found two distinct characteristics among the leaders of these companies: humility and a steely determination to do the right thing for the company. 

Practising curiosity, compassion and humility, allows us, as well as our people, to bring our best selves to work. It is only when the three pieces of the puzzle are working, and working well, together that trust is built and strong connections are created.  

This is when you exercise leadership in a way that people are connected and engaged and achieve real commitment (the heart) and results (the head).

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