What Is Relational Leadership? (With Principles and Tips)
Updated November 10, 2022
Knowing which leadership style is most effective for your team can significantly improve team morale and development. Relational leadership emphasizes building relationships in the workplace and using those relationships to work toward a common goal. Learning more about this leadership style can help you determine if it's a smart choice for your management or team leadership. In this article, we explore what relational leadership is, highlight its five principles, share the benefits of implementing this leadership style, and provide helpful tips for implementing it.
What is relational leadership?
Relational leadership is a model of guidance that suggests a leader's effectiveness and relates their ability to develop positive relationships within an organization. It also relates to the process of people working together to achieve the greater good or to accomplish a positive change as a team of professionals. Relational leaders use empathy to empower their teams to build strength in their current skills and develop new skills. The goal for a relational leader is to instil professional growth in their team members through positive social development and growth to achieve a common goal.
Read more: 10 Common Leadership Styles
Principles of relational leadership
Here are the five principal components of this leadership style:
To be a successful relational leader, it's vital to empower team members to make their own decisions and openly communicate ideas and opinions. These leaders can involve their team members in group decisions, allowing them to feel empowered in decision-making. For example, they might have a team meeting where all members can express their ideas and discuss them openly. Giving team members this level of empowerment may help provide them with a sense that they're contributing to the greater good, which can increase their motivation and productivity in the workplace.
Ethics are the moral values that motivate a leader to decide or generate an outcome. Typically, relational leaders have strong moral values and ethical approaches to decision-making procedures. This leadership style uses ethics to shape leadership behaviours. This use of ethics ensures the leader exemplifies actions that can motivate their team members, allow them to feel included, and assist them with feeling trust amongst each other. A relational leader often leads by example and sets the baseline for how their coworkers behave to reach their goals effectively.
A relational leader promotes inclusivity, especially where team members' ideas and opinions are concerned. These leaders consider all perspectives to identify what changes to make and consider all questions and concerns team members might have before implementing a change or decision. For example, a relational leader is likely to ask their team members about a new policy before implementing it. While an inclusive leader creates an environment where all team members can affect a business positively, a relational leader is a liaison that helps those team members make a difference.
Process orientation refers to how a group communicates and functions as a team. An effective relational leader expresses that the process of achieving a goal is just as valuable as the outcome of achieving a goal. This leadership style ensures all team members understand their roles, have a clear sense of purpose, and know what tasks to complete to meet their goals. For example, a relational leader might plan a meeting before starting a project, where they ensure all team members understand their roles, expectations, and the project goal. As the project progresses, they continue to monitor the process closely.
A relational leader is purposeful by committing to each goal while discovering commonalities with other team members. These leaders may identify the common goals, organize the objectives, and help anticipate the outcome of these goals. An effective relational leader involves all team members in visualizing results, helping them feel a sense of importance, purpose, and inclusivity. This type of leader might meet with each team member before starting a project to ensure they understand their contributions to the overall goal. This step ensures each member feels like an essential part of the team.
Benefits of relational leadership
Here are some benefits of using this leadership style to guide your team:
In this leadership model, team members play cooperative roles in attaining a successful workplace goal. You can establish open feedback and communication to understand if team members are in positions suitable for their skills. If you explain you welcome respectful feedback, even if it doesn't agree with your views, you may establish this open communication. You might plan one-on-one meetings with each team member so they can express thoughts or concerns with you privately, which they may hesitate to share in front of others.
Using this leadership style can accelerate change because it establishes a foundation for your team members to work to achieve a common goal. You may have your team focus on achieving smaller common goals through teamwork. You can ensure every member understands their personal goals and how they contribute to the team's objectives. This strategy can help the group visualize larger common goals and make them seem more achievable.
Strengthens team morale
Empowering your team members can help them feel valued and essential to projects and organization goals, ultimately improving the team's morale. When team morale is high, the members enjoy their work more and are more willing to collaborate to achieve team goals. You can increase team morale by creating a positive and collaborative work environment. It's also beneficial to celebrate individual and team achievements. For example, you might distribute gift cards or purchase lunch for team members. It's also crucial that professionals have a strong work-life balance, so they feel energized and focused when working.
Tips for relational leaders
Here are five helpful tips to consider as a relational leader:
Be authentic and truthful
One way you might promote trust in the workplace is by having an authentic and truthful approach to working with team members. For example, you can share organizational goals and values with the entire team, be open with your motives to achieve those goals, and allow your team to share their insights. Being authentic can help you enact your commitments to the group by allowing them to trust that you have the organization's and their best interest in mind.
Find meaning in your relationships
Identifying meaning in your relationships may help you become empathetic to your peers. If you understand the value of the relationship you're cultivating, you can also use that knowledge to develop the skills of your peers. Empathy can build a deep connection between coworkers, which may motivate them to deliver exceptional results while working toward a goal.
Get to know your team members
You can establish individual time frames to meet with each team member and try to understand their personal and career goals. You might ask them about themselves and how they're currently feeling as a team member and in their personal lives. Showing that you care about your team members and not just their work can establish a personal relationship, which may help motivate them to complete work efficiently and effectively.
Show appreciation for your team
As a relational leader, it's essential to recognize how your team members have contributed to the team. This recognition may improve morale, leading to higher productivity, profits, and shared goal achievements. Some ways you can express appreciation include:
creating incentives for completing tasks, such as a pay raise or bonus
designing team member of the month awards
hosting a catered luncheon
offering an extra day of paid time off
praising workplace performance
View yourself as a person with influence
Building confidence is vital while becoming an effective relational leader, so viewing yourself as an influential leader is essential. This tip can help you carefully consider your actions and words, as you're more likely to realize their impact on others. Influential leaders can guide their coworkers through steps to success, and coworkers may feel more trusting of their leader because of this confidence.
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