Technology Can’t Replace Leadership
The rapid advancements in technology have been a boon for managing businesses. In many cases, technology helps businesses become more efficient and effective. But technology isn’t always effective when it comes to building relationships. Businesses are made up of people and the larger a business grows, the bigger the number of people involved and the more complex the relationships become.
Leadership is getting other people to want to follow you. It’s moving people forward with a common purpose. It’s inspiring others to be willing to struggle to achieve a shared vision. In other words, leadership is personal and relational.
Unfortunately, along with the proliferation of technology, I’ve observed a disturbing trend: leaders using technology where leadership is required. And the result is dysfunctional leaders and dysfunctional organizations. With all the different ways to connect with others available at our fingertips, many leaders find themselves more disconnected than ever.
Don’t Try to Replace Leadership With Technology
A significant part of being an effective leader is building relationships. To do so requires personal interaction. But the more that a leader relies on technology in personal interactions, the less personal and less effective he becomes.
People connect through authentic communication. There have been plenty of studies that show that only a small percentage of communication is based on written or verbal communication. Over 90% of communication is achieved through nonverbal cues. Only when we can match tone of voice, gestures, eye contact, etc. can we truly know when “I’m following you” doesn’t mean they’re following you at all.
This is why relying on emails, instant messaging, intranets, voicemails, text messages, and other forms of technology – all minus body language – is making a growing number of leaders much less effective. They aren’t really communicating if over 90% of the message is lost. Their ability to really connect and build relationships is reduced to paragraphs and snippets.
People want a leader who cares about them. People want a leader who they can trust. And people want a leader who will listen. People want a chance to voice their opinions and share their views about what’s working and what isn’t. Those things require personal communication, and face-to-face is best.
You have to stay connected to your people. Their relationship with you – their leader – is one of the biggest factors in determining their level of engagement and overall satisfaction.
If you have created relationships with your people by listening, serving their interests, and building trust, then you can communicate some things in less personal ways. But my experience has been that many leaders have poor interpersonal relationships to begin with, and the situation is worsened when technology is used as a replacement for personal interaction. Never use technology as a substitute for real interaction with your people – no matter how well you work together.
If you are going to lead people, you must understand that strong relationships are necessary to effectively collaborate, build trust, and create employee engagement and loyalty.
Don’t Hide Behind Technology
It’s easy to sit behind a closed door and communicate using all the electronic means at your disposal. After all, if you don’t have to communicate face-to-face, you can avoid conversations that are uncomfortable, awkward, or potentially messy. Don’t fall prey to this.
Lack of candor is a silent killer in organizations large and small. Too many people – too often – avoid candid conversations.
One of the greatest challenges of leadership is having difficult conversations with clarity, ease, and effectiveness. Often leaders struggle with how to give constructive criticism, address performance issues, or confront interpersonal problems.
Candid conversations are real conversations and they need to happen in person – not in a disconnected, impersonal way.
You simply won’t have the openness you need to solve the biggest challenges in your business if you communicate through email and avoid uncomfortable conversations. The absence of candor is far more debilitating to an organization than the temporary discomfort that may come with candid conversations.
Use More Personal Communication
Great leaders understand the value of developing and maintaining strong relationships with others by using a personal touch whenever possible.
Don’t email when a phone call would make the message clearer. Don’t call when a face-to-face meeting is needed. Important communications are always best when they are personal.
Technology has changed our world. But technology doesn’t change leadership. Why? Leadership is personal, and it requires interaction because it’s dynamic. Those distinctions get lost when we put technology between people.
Electronic means of communication have become the norm in the workplace. It seems faster, and there are some that simply aren’t comfortable with traditional interpersonal communications. But, as a leader, you must find ways to leverage the benefits of technology without losing touch with the most important aspects of building relationships.
Are you putting technology between yourself and others?