Leaders cannot accomplish their intentions and goals alone. It is essential that we connect well with those whose support makes us leaders.

BY MICHAEL F. BROOM, Ph.D., Organization Development Psychologist

Leaders cannot accomplish their intentions and goals alone. It is essential that we connect well with those whose support makes us leaders.

I mentioned last month a leader who embarrassed an essential employee in public. That leader weakened their connection with that employee. I talked with that person; he told me he was considering moving on, given how he had been treated.

Without thinking, we can risk losing a connection vital to our success. By staying conscious of our need to develop and maintain strong connections with our followers, we maintain the support and the influence we need to accomplish our intentions.

Leaders whose followers grant them little influence do not lead for long. The higher the level of connection, the greater the trust; the more people will allow us to influence them.

Notice that phrasing: people allow us to influence them. The choice is theirs, not ours. The more connected someone feels to us, the more they trust us; the more likely they will allow us to influence them.

As we monitor whether our behavior has our intended impact, we must notice if we are deepening our connections or weakening them.

It is all too easy to get caught up in the “doingness” of whatever task is at hand and forget that whatever we are doing (or not doing), regardless of any intentions to the contrary, impacts those around us.

We often take the quality of our connections for granted. The CEO of a middle-sized organization confided in me that his wife had just left him and taken the kids. He was distraught.

I asked him if he’d seen it coming. He said his wife’s decision took him totally by surprise. I suggested, “You probably weren’t paying attention, which was likely a significant part of why she left.” He sadly nodded his head. He said he thought everything was fine when it wasn’t.

Do not trust your assumptions that everything is fine with any relationship that is important to you. Such beliefs allow us to ignore or simply not see that things are not okay. We need sound and current data, not assumptions, to know if our connections and influence are in good shape.

We cannot maintain healthy relationships if we disconnect from those around us, even in the name of task accomplishment.

If we act to move our intentions forward without considering whether we are strengthening or weakening our relationships with those whose support we need, we may wonder why things aren’t working out.

Conflicts also have the potential to derail our connections. Sometimes our supporters disagree with us. If we avoid conflicts and leave them resolved, our supporters may feel rejected and distance themselves from us, weakening the connection.

The antidote is to be genuinely curious about, interested in, and appreciative of their point of view. None of those speak to agreeing, but they will help maintain the quality of relationship even if you need to stick to your original idea.

Conflict among people is inevitable. Dealing with conflict on automatic can seriously threaten our connections. In later articles, we will explore in depth the power dynamics that make differences difficult and a threat to our connections.

The more important our intended goals are, the more care we must take in forming and maintaining high-quality connections with those who would support us. It pays dividends to stay conscious about your connections with your followers!

Michael F. Broom, Ph.D., has been an organization development psychologist for 45 years. He consults with organizations of all types, including Google and Genentech, among others. He has taught at major universities, including Johns Hopkins and American. For more information, you can contact him at or

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