In the realm of leadership, striking a balance between fixing problems and prioritizing relationships is a skill that leaders must daily work on mastering. In his book RARE Leadership, Dr. E. James Wilder, an esteemed expert in neuroscience and relationships, stresses the significance of keeping relationships at the forefront. He underscores that remaining relational – with your brain in
"Relational Mode" amid distress - is necessary for effective leadership.
When issues overshadow relationships, the consequences of focusing on solving them swiftly will be damaging. A leader’s zealous arguments and justifications for a quick solution inadvertently erode relationships. Their brain switches and “sees people as problems to be solved and focuses on managing others to maximize winning.” In response, those around the leader perceive this as an attack by their “enemy,” and respond in one of three ways: they defend, retreat, or shut down. Dr. Wilder describes the phenomenon of switching into "Enemy Mode" – when the lower brain prioritizes problem-solving over preserving interpersonal connections – as a counter to building a strong, healthy, collaborative team.
Strong teams are built on the foundation of healthy individual relationships. Emotional maturity is the ability to prioritize the group's well-being over one’s personal interests. He emphasizes the importance of swiftly returning to "Relational Mode," stating, "We must learn to switch back to Relational Mode as quickly as possible."
Prioritizing relationships in leadership is integral to team and organizational success. Leaders must recognize that conflicts and problems are natural within a group but need not jeopardize interpersonal connections. Instead, these challenges can be opportunities to strengthen relationships, cultivate compassion, and drive collective success.
Check out part 4 here.