Good leaders connect with their people

Published 10:30 pm Thursday, September 28, 2017

By Elaine Lankford

Clara Barton will forever be remembered as the most influential woman in the nursing profession.

Though she did not set out to be a nurse in the early part of her life, the Civil War changed the trajectory of her life. Immediately volunteering to help with the wounded, she would later opt to leave the safety of the city hospitals. Barton became a one-woman army in the direct care of wounded soldiers on the battlefield.


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Years later, at the age of 60, she would found the American Red Cross and lead it for the next 23 years.

Clara Barton exemplifies the leadership Law of Connection: “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.” Long before Barton asked for support in creating the American Red Cross, she had touched thousands and thousands of hearts by simple acts of care and compassion.

In the rush of the day, business leaders must pause to remember that if they don’t connect with their employees at the heart level, they are hampering their potential to fully influence those around them at the head level. In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell makes this observation: “You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion.”

Leadership should work on making individual connections, not just group connections. Even in large corporations, every employee must feel connected to the company’s leader in a personal way to gain every employee’s confidence.

Think that’s impossible for big business to achieve? It’s not. Look at companies such as Facebook, Google or Proctor and Gamble to find large corporations that have learned how to make the Law of Connection work for them.

So how do you make a connection with your employees? John Maxwell offers these eight simple suggestions:

  • Connect with yourself. Know who you are and have confidence in yourself.
  • Communicate with openness and sincerity. People can spot a fake more often than you think.
  • Know your audience. Get out there and ask some questions that will help you to understand the person standing in front of you better.
  • Live your message! There’s no better way to connect with others than by practicing what you preach.
  • Go to where they are. It’s time to take a walk outside of your office and meet your employees at their workspace.
  • Focus on them, not yourself. Want to get someone to open up? Give them the chance to be center stage for a few minutes.
  • Believe in them. Sometimes people just need to know we see more in them than they can see in themselves.
  • Offer direction and hope. People are looking to you for help and a reason to keep digging in.

Finally, understand that making the connection is your responsibility as a leader. When you ask people to follow your leadership, you bear the burden of proof as to why they should comply.

Leveraging the Law of Connection and being proactive in making the connection will give your followers a better understanding of who you are as a leader and why you are worthy of being followed.

Leaders who take the time to connect with their workforce reap the benefits of those connections tenfold. These are the workforces that exhibit loyalty, a strong work ethic, and high productivity. What will you do today to start building a deeper connection tomorrow?


Elaine Lankford is a John Maxwell certified coach, teacher, trainer and speaker. She is the founder of Transforming Love Ministries, LLC and a board member of the Christian Business Coalition of Hampton Roads. Email her at