Leadership Retreats Resources

The Most Powerful Word In Leadership

September 19, 2018
Lead Others
Jesse Parrish

As a leader, you have likely experienced this competing tension:

Finding the balance between prioritizing results or relationships.

It can be hard deciding which is of greater value, considering that whatever is valued most in your company culture tends to shape your work experience.

Prioritizing one promotes an open, engaging atmosphere; the other encourages a heads–down, productive environment.

Over time, either results or relationships will rise to the top of your value system, determining your priorities for yourself and for your team.

I experience this tension often as I attempt to lead. The competition is never more surely at play than in my stressors and motivators. When a co-worker walks into my office, I have the option to consider it an interruption to my work or an opportunity to collaborate and connect.

The push and pull of focusing on results versus relationships is a universal dilemma. Each of us will be biased toward one. Consider the following and ask yourself which is more familiar to you.

Results Oriented – We all go to work to accomplish a task, be productive, advance the mission, and accomplish the goals set before us. Frustration builds with unproductive, unfocused meetings; interruptions and water cooler small talk are draining. Not meeting goals and objectives is painful. Ultimately, we want to drive the team forward to success and high performance! To do so, everyone must work hard and get the job done.

Relationships Oriented – The workplace is a community. Team mates are friends, collaborators, and individuals with their own stories and lives. Meetings and an open office policy will foster unity in a team as the members connect on a more personal level. It’s important for a leader to stay plugged in to the hustle and bustle of their colleagues’ working lives and to cultivate an atmosphere in which team members can be themselves. Interact with team members; ask for their thoughts or opinions; swap stories about the weekend; get the latest grilling recipes. Enjoy the workplace together! Sure, it may take a bit longer to accomplish the goals, but you and your team will more surely enjoy the process and the success!


The Most Important Word

We all have a natural bias toward either being results oriented or relationship oriented. Ask yourself, “Do I want to just methodically arrive at the destination or do I also want to enjoy the people along the way?” Everyone has a natural tendency to value one over the other.

The challenge is this: both have value and are necessary for leaders, teams, and organizations to grow and excel. Rather than focusing on only one orientation bias, how much better if we embrace what Jim Collins calls the “Genius of the AND.”

Assigning equal value to both results and relationships may well be the most challenging skill of a leader. It is also the key that unlocks the most potential in any leader, team, or organization. –By cultivating both areas—by operating in the Genius of AND. Valuing both results AND relationships is a rare skill, but it can be learned!

  • A leader fulfills his or her purpose AND enables his people to find fulfillment in theirs.


  • A leader is propelled to become an innovator. Toyota experienced this when they set out to create cars of the highest quality AND affordability.


  • A leader is enabled to develop a holistic mindset. Nelson Mandela embodied this when he championed independence AND a peaceful “rainbow nation” in South Africa.


  • A leader drives toward a unifying solution between two seemingly opposing ideals, remaining fully committed to results and relationship. In Good to Great, Jim Collins states “[Great leaders] embrace both extremes across a number of dimensions at the same time—purpose AND profit, continuity AND change, freedom AND responsibility, discipline AND creativity, humility AND will, empirical analysis AND decisive action, etc.”

Know Your Bias, Plan Your Approach

The following four action points may well enable you to achieve balance between results and relationships within your team.

Acknowledge your bias. We all have one. What is yours? Do you tend to place more value on results or relationships?

Examine behaviors on both sides of the tension. What would great results-oriented leaders do? What would great relationally-oriented leaders do?


Practice personal application of insights you gain. For example, , do you struggle with negative feedback during performance reviews, fearing you will damage relationships? If so, practice setting clear, concise expectations and check in more regularly.

If you are effective at giving feedback but fail to build trusting, caring relationships, spend some time asking about your team members, their likes, struggles, hopes, family and interests. Show you care!


Practice organizational application. Does your team or organization value results over relationships or vice versa? If so, strategically place people in positions of influence where they can help create an environment that values both results AND relationships.

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