Boundless Leadership: The most crucial leadership skill

I've been speaking at several conferences these last few weeks. I’ve noticed a distinct difference in the speakers whose message lands well with the audience, and those whose message falls flat, where the applause is simply a polite conclusion rather than thunderous appreciation.

I’ve also noticed how various CEOs and senior executives are running up against what they call ‘brick walls’, or resistance to their ideas and initiatives. They are frustrated in some cases, disdainful in others.

For both the speakers and the executives I see one element missing in their communication style: the ability to truly connect.

Sounds simple. We’ve been taught the importance of active listening, of eye contact, of smiling.

These are the mechanics of connection, not the spirit of it.

The pivot point is this: who are you focusing on?

As a speaker, are you more concerned how you will appear, will they like you, have you got your message and movements matched properly? Or are you focused on the audience, what they care about, what might be happening in their world, and how your message might uplift or assist.

As an executive, are you more concerned about making your point, winning them over, and getting your way? Or do you consider others’ motivations, concerns, apprehensions and how your agenda might help or hinder them?

My mentors Matt Church and Peter Cook call this attention out (focus on service to others) versus attention in (focus on self and personal concerns).

True connection is a river current - it flows abundantly, and draws creatures to it for sustenance and refreshment. Self focus is like a puddle, choked off from the flow of life.

If we are to create lives and businesses worth our attention, we need to lift our focus and deepen our concern and focus on how we can serve, how we can expand the lives of others, not take from them.