Building Your Relational Leadership Muscles

Successful leaders are learners.
And the learning process is on going.
John Maxwell Leadership 101

Many years ago my company sent me to a nine month Leadership Class. I had been promoted to a Director, which carried a Board Position with it. And I needed some extra training in my expanded role. It was grueling and exhilarating at the same time. The class was three hours after a full day and most days I was at work at five A.M., which was the grueling part. However, the class was so well managed with practical applications and interaction with peers it made it an incredible growing time for me in honing my skills as well as learning new ones.

One theme was woven through out:

Keeping your Focus while Building your Team. 

One of the ways to strengthen your leadership muscle is by understanding how you lead. In last week’s blog, we studied Relational Leadership.

In review, Relational Leadership is the ability to build a rapport with their team in a way that maximizes every person’s potential while creating synergy among them in achieving clear set goals.

How do you lead?

Today, we are going to look at two very different styles. In fact they are polar opposites.

Controlled and Contained — Empowered and Released

Controlled and Contained

The Controlled and Contained leadership style is defined by the need of oversight and engagement in the detail of their employees’ daily job. They require from their staff constant feedback, supervision of every task and full disclosure before any decision is made.

The Controlled and Contained leadership style is a “Helicopter Leader”. These leaders hover over each task as the staffer is working to ensure the task is completed the way they deem best. The leader firmly believes if they do not hover, then the task will not be completed with efficiency, in a timely manner and cost effective way.

In this Helicopter environment each task and each employee is micro-managed. This method of leading creates several limitations for the leader and their staff.

The first limiting factor — Tunnel Vision.

  • Tunnel vision occurs when the leader is focused on a single task.
  • Tunnel vision keeps the leader from seeing the big picture.
  • Tunnel vision consumes all the leader’s time, making him less productive.

As leaders, our perspective should be on our short goals, while keeping long term goals in mind. When our time is spent hovering, our short-term goals may achieve a level of success, however, the time we need to execute our long term goals is eaten away. And that keeps leaders working additional hours — leaving no time for anything outside of work.

Our second limiting factor — Stifling Employees.

  •       Employees who are micromanaged are less productive.
  •       Employees who are micromanaged have a higher stress level.
  •       Employees who are micromanaged are undervalued and not trusted.

Employees are bought in make your job easier by taking a specific area off your plate. If controlling and containing is your method of leading, then your employees loose the opportunity to think and grow in their positions and bring value to the company.

Empowered and Released

The Empowered and Released leadership style is defined as ability to give authority and freedom to his or her team and to accomplish the task within the framework of the department goals and visions.

In this leadership style the leader is focused on the macro, the overall goal. The team understands the macro, however the focus is on accomplishing their task, which is designed to complete the bigger picture.

The empowered and released leadership style doesn’t require a helicopter to over see. In staying with the aircraft theme, they are “Fighter-Jet” leaders. They empower their employees by releasing to them to do the work they were hired to do. This allows the leader to stay focused on their mission, while being available to answer questions and provide input.

This type of leader firmly believes in order to accomplish goals, he or she has to empower each staff member and release the area of responsibility to them. This method of leadership creates an environment of freedom for both the leader and staffer.

Here are two Freedom factors in this leadership style.

First freedom factor — Leadership Clarity 

  •       Clarity brings the ability to see beyond the day-to-day, giving room to visualize and plan for the future. 
  •       Clarity gives confidence in knowing the bases are covered and the work is done well. 
  •       Clarity in knowing your team comes with solutions and plans for the challenges they face. 

The second freedom factor — Confident Employees.

  • Confident Employees believe they are trusted to handle the task at hand, which makes them more productive.
  • Confident Employees will take risks to improve processes and learn, because they know any mistakes will become opportunities to grow.
  • Confident Employees know they are listened to when offering input, because the leader values other perspectives.

Confident employees make you, as a leader, look like a champion in the eyes of others. When the employee is Empowered and Released, then the whole team including you grows and succeeds.

As leaders, we have been placed in our position knowing we can accomplish the job at hand. Our staff provides the support to bring the success in our area of responsibility.

When I was promoted to Director we transferred someone from another city to take my old position. She was exactly opposite of me in every way and we were a perfect fit together. She worked very differently from me, but the methods in which she completed her assignments were not a critical factor.  In fact, I could give her any assignment and her team was able to complete with excellence.

We have talked about two different styles, while acknowledging there are combinations of these two and others we have not discussed that you might relate to. My question today is —

What type of leader do you want to be?

Before we get to developing a plan; I want to remind you if you have not had a chance to discover your Relational Leadership Personality, go to my website at and download my e-book called Relational Leadership.

So let’s put some things down:

First, take a few minutes and write down what type of leader you would like to be.

Some of the attributes could come from people you have admired or watched over the years as great leaders.

For me, Bill Johnson, has been a great leader I have followed and learned from. One of the key lessons I have learned from him is willingness to make room for growth by empowering people. And in that empowerment, there are mistakes that are made, but he uses them to facilitate growth in that person. He has developed a strong team at Bethel Church in Redding CA.

Second, make 3 columns. At the top of each column, write:

Great, Good, Need to Learn

Take what you wrote down for the type of leaders you would like to become and under the columns write what you are great at, good at and need to learn.

You may want to get feedback from your team in these areas.

Prioritize your “Need to Learn” and pick the highest priority. Next find the best way for you to develop this area. As you complete one, go back and review again. You may find the area you are working on includes other areas on your list!

These simple steps of defining what you want your future to be as a leader, and determining the next step will elevate your team. It will also prepare you for promotion.

If you need help contact me by filling out a contact form at

I will help you connect to your best by clarifying your vision, developing and implementing the plan you need to be the best you can be.

Remember, You are the best investment you can make!

1 Maxwell, John C. The Complete 101 Collection. Thomas Nelson, 2015. page 14.