When leaders learn to function on the permission level, they do more than merely comply with orders. They follow because they want to. Building relationships develops a foundation for effectively leading others. People connect across the lines between their job descriptions and departments. Moving up to Level 2 is where followers give their supervisors permission to lead them.
Level 2 leaders shift their focus from “me” to “we.” They develop relationships and win people over with interaction, not the power of their positions. Good relationships create energy and give interactions a positive tone. On the permission level, leaders listen to their people and their people listen to them in return.
A Level 2 leader’s goal is to become aware of the uniqueness of people and appreciate their differences. He does this by letting them know that they matter and that they are seen as individual human beings, not merely employees. Trust is the foundation of permissional leadership. The more trust a leader develops, the stronger his relationships become.
The Downside of Permission
Leading by permission may appear “soft” to some people since caring for others can be seen as “weak,” especially by leaders with a natural bias toward action. Those who start on the hard side and refuse to learn softer skills often get stuck at Level 1.
The most common reason for leaders to not move up to Level 3 is that they become so relational that they lose sight of the primary goal of leadership: helping others work together, move forward, and achieve more. When leaders are relational, their followers sometimes mistake kindness for weakness. They believe that encouragement means they do not have to respect boundaries, and they assume that empowerment means they have the freedom to do what they want.
Leaders will not get ahead with others unless they are willing to:
*Choose to care about others.
*Look for something likeable about every person they meet.
*Discover what is likeable about themselves and do whatever is possible to share that with the people around them.
*Make the effort every day to express what they like about the other people in their lives.