Relational Leadership

I’ve enjoyed these last two weeks in a unique way. I’ve enjoyed a few walks. I’ve enjoyed a few bike rides. I’ve enjoyed being in relationship with more of the geography in which I live.

The above picture is towards Spanish Fork, Utah. It’s on the way to Lincoln Park. It’s where the urban features of where I live give way quickly to rural Utah. It’s ranch and crop lands like the above. It’s a bit of irrigation from snow melt and regulated lake drain. There is an expansiveness that I feel each time I head this direction.

Such rides enable me to think more about a topic that has been with me the last six months in particular, but also the last twenty years. Relational leadership is becoming a more clear and more used reference for me. As I’ve written before, relation includes relationship to self, to other, to circumstance, and to a sense of mystery and spirit. They each matter.

Recently I cohosted a three-part workshop in which the theme was very much about relationships. It included one session on connecting. It included another session on the changes occurring in their work setting. It included a last session on dreaming some of the possibilities that attract them into the future. Each session had participative process designed to help grow wisdom and insight together.

It was during these workshops that I realized three aspects of relational leadership, which I then translated into important questions for any group to take on together.

  1. How are you doing? It matters that we cultivate an emotive quality with the people that we work with. It matters that we have the capacity and the compassion to recognize that most of us live pretty complex lives. Whether it’s work. Or family. Or home-schooling. Or CoVid. Or a dozen other things. It’s not that we have to follow every nuance of our co-worker’s lives. However, it matters that we be deliberate in recognizing more of the wholebeingness of ourselves and our coworkers.
  2. What do you care about? Whenever a group is stuck, I rely on this question. What is it that you most care about here? What is it that got you into this kind of work in the first place? Inviting people to speak to what they care about brings in the heart to any of the endeavors we are in. Sometimes the question is more specific in scale — what is it that you care about in this project? Sometimes it is more general — what is it that you more care about in the next year of what we are up to? Care invites yearning. Care invites longing. It’s important not only to the individual but also to the group.
  3. What might you uniquely be seeing? Again, this is such a great question to ask of ourselves and of each other. It’s invitation to see more of what is going on from unique vantage point. There’s the obvious in this — what do you see working in different functions. But there’s also a bunch of other ways that we are diverse and different with each other. It matters that we invoke the possibility that what one person sees might complete the picture of the puzzle that we are working on. I love the surprise that can come from such invitation — what might you uniquely be seeing.

So, I love these three questions because they shape a narrative for being in connection with one another. They shape some process for seeing what is similar, and, what is different. They restore an expansiveness in how we periodically lift our heads from the task at hand to see the context in which our tasks reside amidst others in their tasks.

I’m grateful for days when I can see the geography in which I live. I’m grateful for days when I can see the geography that is a group of people clarifying who they are — with self, with others, with circumstance, with mystery and spirit.

One Reply to “Relational Leadership”

  1. Love this. Questions for me, for the people with whom I am in relationship, for this time and this place.

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