Most people think of leaders as a person who stands at the front, takes charge of the group, and expects them to follow, usually leading them toward accomplishing specific goals.
I am not a typical type of leader. You rarely see me go in front of an audience and advocate what needs to happen. Instead, I am more adept at exerting my influence “behind the scenes.” It is because I am good at building trust and friendships with people of all types.
I always begin by taking the initiative to say “hi” to those who seem to be left out in the crowd. I understand the anxiety and even the loneliness one could have if the person is feeling being ignored by the group. So I always go out of my way to greet them and to make sure they feel welcomed. Many end up being my lifelong friends.
Sometimes during the week, I would send quick text messages to them and see how their day is going. It is a small task, but many times this simple gesture makes their day.
Another thing that I do among friends is that I respect their different opinions. People’s temperaments and thinking could vary widely. I never try to argue with my friends when we differ, as I know that arguments never lead anyone coming around to my side. Instead, I try to listen and then explain our different views in a more objective way. This always calms the situation and keeps our friendship intact.
Friends seem to find it easy to tell me their secrets and, especially, life issues to me. On many occasions, I let them vent their emotions and, if the situation calls, tell them my advice. In such moments of emotional connection, not only they feel heard, most of the times they also end up following my suggestions.
My influence may seem low-key, but I think it is just effective. Relating to people emotionally is, I believe, the key to leadership. When a politician wins a following, he or she wins them not by arguing or reasoning but by appealing and connecting with them emotionally. Once that mutual bond is established, all subsequent analysis or proposition is just an afterthought.
I am fortunate that somehow I am able to make close friends easily. And I genuinely want to see that what I do and say make their life better in some ways. And at the end, I think that’s what leadership inspires. It is that they trust you. People become willing to follow someone because, at the core, that someone is able to make them feel more anchored, hopeful, less confused, or simply, happier. I am thankful that my natural temperament allows me to benefit my friends this way.