LeaderTip #10: How to Connect with People

At Growing Leaders, we’ve decided to post a helpful article each week continuing through the summer on our blog page, geared especially for student leaders. You can expect it on Fridays. They’ll contain practical tips for leading meetings, communicating a vision, choosing priorities, dealing with difficult peers, bossing your calendar, effective planning and more. You can find today’s tip below. If you like it, it’s our gift to you and your students. Feel free to copy it for each of your student leaders as a discussion guide that will equip them to be more healthy leaders. Also, click on “Free Resources” to view and download the growing library of Leader Tips on a special page of our site. This is a page just for young leaders to practice great leadership. Feel free to have your students look for it, all summer as they anticipate leading this fall. Enjoy.


It used to be that I.Q. was more important than E.Q. to leaders. In other words, the person with the highest I.Q. got to be the leader. Today—it’s now more about E.Q. than I.Q. Our emotional intelligence, or the way we manage our emotions and the emotions of others are key to connecting with and leading teams. Consider this: Success in school is about 75% I.Q., and 25% E.Q.  Once you enter your career, it’s just the opposite. Good leaders cultivate good people skills.

Emotional Intelligence is the sum total of four ingredients:

  1. My self awareness
  2. My self-management
  3. My social awareness
  4. My relationship management.

So How Do Leaders Connect with People?

Many leaders make the mistake of separating leadership from relationships. This happens when a person steps into a position of leadership and assumes that everyone will follow them because of their position.

“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” –Dr. John C. Maxwell 

Four Word Pictures


(Take initiative and make them feel comfortable)

Every interaction has a host and guest. Good leaders “host” the relationships on their team. Knowing what a good host does in their home, we ought to be able to do it with people everywhere. Leaders set the tone and create safe environments to grow.


(Ask questions. Probe and poke with until you see a need)

Doctors ask questions before they give answers. As you attempt to discern people’s needs or team problems—ask questions, until you can see where they are. Only then do you try to address their needs. Don’t give a prescription before a diagnosis.


(Become an active listener and discern what you hear)

Just like a good counselor, your verbal and non-verbal skills communicate you understand. Leaders must be active listeners. They realize listening motivates faster than great speeches. We earn our right to speak by listening.


(Don’t merely travel with them but get them to the destination)

Leaders are not travel agents who merely tell people about a destination. A leader’s people skills must result in their ability to take people to a destination. Our purpose isn’t to be liked by people, but to take them on a journey and to reach a goal.

Leading Difficult People

Every leader is going to face difficult people and draining positions. Every teacher can say the same thing about their classrooms. What’s more, almost every parent will face the same dilemma in their home. They will have kids who drain them because they are so much alike, or because they are so different, the adult reaches the end of their rope and has no strategy to deal with the child. The following ones are common to leaders, teachers and parents. Let me suggest a strategy for each difficult student, and what I’ve found to be a healthy strategy to lead them:

TYPE                                                            STRATEGY

1. The Sherman Tank: rides over people.    1. Consider the issue; stand up if important

2. Space Cadet: lives in another world        2. Find and develop their unique gifts

3. The Volcano: explosive, unpredictable    3. Remove from crowd, listen, be direct

4. The Thumb Sucker: self-pity, pouts        4. Don’t reward; show them to real trouble

5. The Wet Blanket: always down               5. Be honest, don’t cater or let them lead

6. Garbage Collector: attracts the worst       6. Challenge their statements; force honesty

7. The User: demands much time, energy    7. Set boundaries; require accountability

Ten Truths Every Leader Should Know About People

Throughout my career, I have learned people skills from some of mentors, including John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, Shawn Mitchell and others. The following are a list of ten realities that I use as reminders of the basic needs my team members have:

1. People are often insecure. Give them confidence.

2. People like to feel special. Honor them.

3. People look for a better tomorrow. Give them hope.

4. People need to be understood. Listen to them.

5. People lack direction. Navigate for them.

6. People are needy. Speak to their needs first.

7. People get emotionally low. Encourage them.

8. People want to associate with success. Help them win.

9. People desire good relationships. Build community on your team.

10. People seek models to follow. Set the example for them.

Questions for Reflection

1. Are you a natural “people person”? Why do you believe this?

2. What’s the most challenging type of person for you to lead? How do you do it?


LeaderTip #10: How to Connect with People