Quick: think of a leader you admire. You most likely respect their business acumen and strive to emulate their leadership style. The chances are that something about them makes you feel like you know them, and they “get” you.
And that’s no accident.
No matter their industry or age, those business leaders all share one thing in common: the ability to connect with others.
When you can effectively connect with others, you immediately increase your communication ability, foster deeper relationships and build trust. This naturally makes you more persuasive, which will help you rally your team and positively influence your peers, partners, and customers.
The good news is that this coveted leadership soft skill isn’t reserved for industry titans. You, too, can increase your ability to connect; here are four lessons from top leaders to help you do so.
1. Put on your empathetic listening ears. – Gary Vaynerchuk
You can’t connect with someone if you’re always talking. Entrepreneur and VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk attribute his ability to connect with others to the related soft skills of empathy and listening. This helps him put himself in others’ shoes and truly understand things from their perspective. And when you listen, you have a chance to learn about and from others. People will naturally align themselves with leaders who make them feel heard and understood.
2. Share more than just the wins. — Sara Blakely
As a leader, it’s tempting to highlight your strengths, but people will respect and connect to those who also share their struggles. Before Spanx became a household name, its founder Sara Blakely was pounding the pavement, selling fax machines door-to-door as she built her business.
She has been very forthcoming about her early challenges and continues to bring a refreshing realness to her communications. Instead of maintaining a carefully-curated-for-social-media presence, she routinely (and unapologetically) professes her love of hair scrunchies and french fries, along with sharing her business insights. Her creativity and authenticity draw others to her, making it easy to connect.
3. Create a culture that values people over products. —Satya Nadella
It’s hard to connect with people when they feel like they don’t matter. When Satya Nadella, an engineer with no CEO experience was tapped to succeed Steve Ballmer as Microsoft’s newest leader, he issued a memo explaining that Microsoft existed to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
This ushered in a new mission and environment for the tech giant and sent a clear message that Microsoft would become a people company instead of a product company.
4. Be human, be vulnerable and “embrace the suck.” — Brené Brown
The best way to connect with others is to be human. And one of the most human things you can do, says Dr. Brené Brown, is to be vulnerable. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston and has spent two decades studying human connection, courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy, and has one of the most popular TED talks of all time, The Power of Vulnerability. She is also the author of five New York Times bestsellers, including her newest book, Dare to Lead, which advocates that leaders find the courage to be vulnerable and shed their armor.
Not that being vulnerable comes easy. Fear—of criticism and failure—often prevents people from showing their more human side. But those leaders who find the courage to “embrace the suck,” as Brown calls it, provide a path for common humanity to prevail and for real connection to occur.
This article has been reprinted with permission from Amy Blascka’s Forbes’ page.