March 1, 2012
News & Opinion: The Elephant in the Room
For some, relationships are easy to talk about. For others, that discussion is avoided, either out of fear, ego, or the perception that it's just not a topic to verbalize. So, even talking about them can be complicated, and being active within them, even more so. There are many historical examples of leaders who had great relationships, and because of that, experienced great success. Quite often, success is dependent on the quality of the relationships a leader possesses. And, of course, the opposite is also true. When relationships are bad, leaders struggle. This is the focus of Diana McLain Smith's recent book The Elephant in the Room: How Relationships Make or Break the Success of Leaders and Organizations. The book begins:
"Relationships? Get over it!" a leader once told me, looking askance. "We're not married. We just have to work together." Yes, and that's exactly the point, I replied. You do have to work together, and if you don't get your relationships right, a lot can go wrong - both for you and your organization."From there, various examples of positive and negative relationships among well-known leaders are discussed, identifying along the way how we readers can learn from both scenarios to help develop our own relationships. In fact, this book is less "business stories" than it is an educational guide, helping readers understand the complexity of relationships and following with extensive direction on how to strengthen and transform them. Relationships can be affected in the moment through a surprising turn of events. They can also change over time based on patterns and assumptions. Our understanding of this, and our ability to positively manage relationships for both short and long-term can be integral to our success, and is the aim of Smith's work with this book.