Picture: THE NEW YORK TIMES/TONY CENICOLA
Picture: THE NEW YORK TIMES/TONY CENICOLA

POWERFUL, inspirational leadership can only happen if employees develop an emotional attachment to the boss.

But how do you foster this kind of attachment in a big company where people are scattered all over the world?

Having individuals who respect you and actively share favourable information about you is more effective in instilling employee attachment than any formal communication. Here are a few suggestions for cultivating these "leader surrogates":

1. Get out more. Spending time with employees in extracurricular activities — softball games, barbecues — is one way executives can let their employees get to know them.

2. Let spontaneous things happen. An unplanned interaction with an individual might make you late to your next meeting, but it is the kind of thing inspiring leaders do. So build a cushion into your schedule, especially when you are traveling to other corporate locations.

3. Don’t strive for perfection. A leader’s strength in one area can compensate for weakness in another. So as you attempt to work with surrogates, choose one or two areas to highlight.

4. Less can be more. Authentically connect with one person, and he or she can promote you to hundreds of people, causing a ripple effect throughout the organisation.

5. Doing beats talking. One of the most effective ways you can display your relatability is to help out with menial tasks. These are simple ways to communicate that you are no better than anyone else.

6. Identify voids. Assign a trusted assistant to find out what stories are being told about you in which locations. When you identify voids, you know where to focus your surrogate-development efforts.

(Adapted from "Make Sure Your Employees Have Good Things to Say About You Behind Your Back" at HBR.org)

Harvard Business Review

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