With more than 35 years in leadership now, I've learned that it's truly all about people. That may seem obvious, but not all leaders behave as if they know or agree with that thought.
It doesn't matter how smart you are, how gifted you are or how much you know about vision and strategy. If you don't know how to connect with and get along with people, you won't make it far as a leader.
We've all made our fair share of relational mistakes, and no doubt you are grateful, as I am, for the people who have been kind and patient. I appreciate the people who gave me a chance and still give me grace.
When you learn to treat people as you want to be treated, it's amazing how much better life becomes.
I've learned that if I put others first, life has a way of giving back in wonderfully positive ways. That's not the motivation, but it is the blessing.
If you don't invest in friendships, you may end up traveling through life alone. The encouraging truth is that great relationships are not too difficult. They require time, love and the willingness to not always get your way.
John Maxwell has been a great friend and mentor for over 35 years. I'm so grateful for his love, belief and investment in me.
He has taught me so much about relationships over the years; I could fill a book. But for now, I'll share just 10 of my favorite principles with you.
10 Great Relationship Principles
1. We see people through our own lens.
Your self-awareness, self-esteem and self-perception establish the foundation of all your relationships. The way you view yourself and the way you see life shapes how you see and relate to others.
Whether you see the cup as half full or half empty will transfer every time.
2. People don't care how much you know till they know how much you care.
Caring about people isn't automatic. Not everyone cares. I'm sure you've run into people along the way who make it clear they just don't care.
You can't learn to care—t's not a skill—but you can decide to care. You can ask God to help you become more caring.
If you want to lead for the long haul, it isn't enough to be great at what you do. If you don't sincerely care about people and live in such a way that you demonstrate it, your leadership will suffer.
3. Listening from the heart is a game-changer.
One of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone is to truly listen.
We are often in a hurry. There is so much to do, right? So when you slow down for a minute or an hour and truly listen, you communicate that you value that person. It can be life-changing for them.
Listening from the heart requires the ability to make a soul-level connection. You communicate empathy, interest and a desire to be helpful far more by listening than merely by your words.
4. Believing the best in people usually brings out the best of people.
Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Sorry, but I love that corny line because it's true. What you look, for you will find.
I was surprised one day when asked why pastors and people only say the good things about someone at their funeral. Why would you want to emphasize someone's shortcomings?
We are all flawed and imperfect, but when someone calls out the best in us, we often rise to that higher standard.
5. Hurting people hurt people.
When the response to a situation is greater than the issue at hand, the real issue is always about something else. The wise leader learns how to get to the real issue.
People who are hurting don't necessarily want to hurt people, but it's like a lion with a thorn in his paw: He can't help it. If we can help people take the thorn out, we can help them live better. In turn, if you are in a relationship with them, your life becomes better too.
6. Admit wrongs and forgive quickly.
Taking responsibility for your actions is core to healthy and productive relationships.
If you make a mistake, own it. If you treat someone poorly, ask forgiveness. Getting defensive or bowing up never makes a relationship better. You may be right, but if you need to win, you'll lose in the long run.
When you are wronged, forgive quickly. You'll live with less stress and enjoy life more fully.
7. Always give more than you take.
There may be a few people in your life who seem impossible to outgive. I understand that. John would be one of those people in my life. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't purpose to be generous anyway.
And with the majority of people you will ever know, you can set your sights to give more than you take. However, this is not about a scorecard. If you keep track, you've missed the point. It's a heart-level thing. It's a way of living, and when your motives are pure, it will bring you great joy.
8. Add value to people.
You can add value to people in simple ways and big ways. Adding value is no more complex than the idea of how you contribute to their life, so their life is better.
It can be as simple as a kind and encouraging word and as involved as a lifetime of mentoring. Sometimes it involves enough love and courage to have a tough and honest conversation.
The greatest value you can add to anyone is the message of Jesus Christ. The gift of eternal life is the greatest and highest value you can bring to someone.
9. You can never encourage anyone too much.
We both know the answer, but let me ask anyway. Have you ever been encouraged too much by someone? Of course not.
Whether it's your kids, an employee, volunteers at the church, a co-worker or your neighbor, take the time to give frequent and sincere encouragement. Your leadership will rise because of it.
10. Trust is the lifeblood of all relationships.
When it comes to a relationship, trust is like a promise. And you should never break a promise.
In fact, that's the essence of trust. People are counting on you to keep your promises. This reflects your character and ultimately who you are.
No reasonable person expects perfection, but they do expect honesty, kindness and that you will do what you say you'll do.
Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.
This article originally appeared at danreiland.com.
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