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Life is people. Leadership is about people.

“Life is more than a heartbeat or the ability to breathe, eat, see, and feel. An individual’s life rotates around the quality of his relationships with other people. Life is people, and it is not so much what they do for you as what you do for them and what you give each other.”

Maxwell Maltz

I came across the above quote from Maxwell Maltz in the book Deliberate Leadership: Creating Success Through Personal Style by Ken Keis and Mitch Javidi, which I am currently reading. It struck me as an important reminder that life and leadership are about people and about relationships.

Retired US Army Special Forces Lt. Col. Scott Mann suggests relationships fall into three general categories:

  1. Those we need to maintain.
  2. Those we need to repair.
  3. Those we need to develop by building new connections.

I am talking about meaningful relationships, not the surface type often associated with connections or Friends on social media or the glad-handing, business card swapping “networking” events.

In order to best lead people you need to develop a relationship with them. You do this by caring about them, listening to them and loving them. Scott Mann also advocates for us to meet people where they are at, not where you want them to be and being relatable to their pain and relevant to their goals. This requires us to be deliberate and intentional as a leader. Relationships take work to build, maintain and restore when they are negatively impacted.

As Maltz points out in the opening quote this is not about what your people can do for you, it is about what can you do for them. What can you do to support them, train them and then trust them to do what they are best at? It is about providing guidelines and guardrails then letting people flourish within that framework. It is about creating a culture of leading, learning and excellence built on a foundation of inclusion, belonging, and core values.

It goes back to the Maori quote I shared in a previous post:

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

 As a leader you are in the people business. So, what are you intentionally and deliberately doing to build, maintain and repair relationships?

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis

Register yourself, and your team for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop to get everyone on the same page regarding leadership and culture. If you are interested in hosting a live Dare to Be Great workshop reach out to me at