Bonding & Leadership

Mom - - Heart

How does bonding theory connect to leadership? What can connection between parents and children tell us about leadership?  Well, mom is probably the first leader you ever meet! Yep, that’s right, you were the kid, the follower, the staff chore engineer and mom was the boss! Despite all the diaper changing, midnight feedings and playing peek-a-boo, mom was still your boss, supervisor, CEO and, mostly, servant-leader in your early days.

So if mom is the first leader and model for leadership in your life, this has powerful implications for your leadership style. How do you bond emotionally with your stakeholders, especially your staff? Do you bond so much you forget about boundaries? Or do you set so many limits that you’ve walled off any connection that could create a great organizational culture?

Let’s take a closer look at how bonding can help us create a better workplace.

  1. Almost every leader and their brother has a values/vision, mission and goals statement posted somewhere. One of the reasons a VMG statement is important is that it gives the leaders and the group a sense of where they are going as a whole. If all of the stakeholders can identify with the VMG in their own way, then they can feel like they’re on the same team. When you feel like you’re on the same team, you feel like you belong and that’s a big part of feeling like you’re bonding.
  2. Children have two things when they are born: Need and potential. Besides skills, knowledge, maturity and responsibility, your staff, in many ways, possess the same two things. As parents of children, we’re supposed to step up to fill the need and develop the potential. As a leader we don’t do all the need and potential work, but we definitely play a significant role in the workplace in developing our staff. This is where empathy and good emotional management come in. It’s that ability to slow down your own negative emotions, deeply empathize with a distressed staff member, for instance, and find out what they need.
  3. Even beyond problem situations, it’s important to know your people experientially.  Knowing your people through shared experiences, debriefs, retreats, and communication exercises all create an organization with a bonding culture. People who feel happy and secure in a workplace do good work. They go beyond rules and requirements and work hard based on values and relationships.
  4. Knowing your staff gives you the chance to assess need, both theirs and the needs of other stakeholders like customers and vendors. Because your staff is closer to the ground they will be able to tell you about the needs of others as well as tell you what they need to get the job done.You will also get a chance to know what they need on a deeper, more existential level. What brings meaning to your staff members? Where do they want to develop? What training, experiences, and or coaching do they need to develop and grow in their jobs and as people?
  5. Contributing is another factor in the bonding experience. When a team member feels like they can contribute, they gain significance as they exercise their particular gifts and talents. This reinforces identity and that helps self-esteem because they see themselves as competent in their role.
  6. Another factor in bonding as a team is the issue of choice. Employees that are given the maximum amount of choice feel empowered to shine and be trusted. Think what it felt like the first time your parents asked you to run an errand alone with the family car. While the responsibility may’ve weighed heavily on your young shoulders, the privilege of driving and choosing how to run the errand may’ve been elating.
  7. Building respect in the organization is another key step in creating bonding. When leaders pass down respect, team members respect each other and then everybody feels safe and significant. This helps create the bonding that leads to good teamwork.
  8. If you team feels lackluster, if morale is low and you, as a leader, feel unmotivated, take a different staff member out to lunch every week. One-on-one, listen deeply and go beyond the question, “What can be done to improve the workplace?” By starting with listening to needs, you’ll start a bonding process that can reconnect everyone and recreate the original enthusiasm for the organization’s values and vision. Bonding is a building process in the workplace. It takes time, servant-leadership, diligence and putting your heart into your work. Start by listening!


Further Reading


Emotional Intelligence In The Workplace by Daniel Goleman


Leadership Beyond Reason by John Townsend


Rethinking Leadership by Thom Sergiovanni


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