There are many ways to build clout as a leader. You can be intelligent and competent, have a record of success, talk the talk and walk the walk, get praise from others who are respected, etc. But I think there is one often-overlooked way to earn respect: be relatable.
If you are a “Humans of New York” fan as I am, perhaps you already saw the picture and caption below. Either way, it deserves another look/read because I think it is a perfect example of the power of relatability.
As you can already guess, I LOVE THIS. This teacher gets it. That last line, “And I want them to know that I cared about them before there was a problem.” gives me goosebumps. Tough conversations are bound to happen. However, if you earned the respect of your team, students, and/or children by putting in the work to connect with them and meet them where they are, those conversations are met with more open minds and less resistance.
As a leader it is imperative we remind those around us that we are human. It is also crucial we remind ourselves those around us are humans, too. If we do not, then we place unrealistic expectations on our team and wonder why there is a lack of motivation to go the extra mile. A good friend of mine, CEO of Sunshine Brands and author of CARE Leadership, Peter Van Stralen, recently said, “Care for your teams’ wellbeing and they will care for yours.”
Striving to be more relatable looks different for every population, but it is worth the work. Here are some things I do that students I speak to say they appreciate: I listen to Taylor Swift’s latest album, try to have an educated opinion about the NBA and NHL playoffs, I am on Pinterest.com to see modern design and fashion trends, I use their slang, and I like and listen to “trap music” and “EDM.” Not all of these things I care deeply about, but if you do not like Taylor Swift, we may have “bad blood” (#nailedit). Please note: you do not have to make your student, supervisee, or child’s passion your passion. But you must at least be open to learning and/or experiencing it.
How do you intentionally connect with others you work with? What steps do you take to let others know you are human? If you have not tried to be relatable, what roadblocks keep you stuck in your lane? Who is someone in your life that let you in a little and now you respect him or her more because of it?
Be that person for someone. Be relatable.