Building successful relationships with coworkers helps insure that both they and the inner leader are more productive. Strong interpersonal relationships increase mutual trust, strengthen competence, enhance self-confidence, and reduce the expenditure of negative energy on protecting self. Productive relationships reduce fear and increase happiness. They encourage inter-dependence and allow coworkers to rely on each other more fully. They reduce the risk to self-image by being open. Such relationships enhances creativity and facilitate introduction of new ideas. Successful relationships support common values and reduce the risk inherent in expressing deeply held values.
Several techniques can be identified to help inner leaders build and maintain strong, mutually beneficial working relationships as the basis for joint work activity. Building strong, trusting relationships also requires that followers come to admire the inner leader. Useful work relationships develop as inner leaders act to create certain characteristics of effective relationships in their work communities, among them the following:
Confidence: Relationships are based on confidence and more (Gibb, 1978). They follow unquestioned belief in and reliance on the inner leader based on evidence or experience. Confidence is also developed when the inner leader is seen as worthy of the followers’ trust and is seen as reliable. This is a kind of expression of faith in the integrity or strength or the potential behavior of the inner leader (Yearout, Miles, and Koonce, 2001).
Open communications: Open interpersonal communications builds relationships
Shared feelings: Relationships define a condition in which members are willing to share their intimate feelings.
Predictability: Relationships also develop out of situations where individuals can predict with some accuracy what their colleagues will do or say, given a specific behavior, situation, or result.
Low risk: Relationships are is created when the inner leader can decrease the vulnerability one member has to other persons in the relationship (Handy, 1976).
Integrity: Trust flows from followers’ confidence in the leader’s ability, integrity, and ethical fidelity.
Values based: The inner leader’s values also influence the development of strong relationships. It is only through direct interaction with the leader’s values that followers can develop a deep conviction about the leader or about his or her basic worth.
Reliability: Relationships are strengthened when the inner leader guides followers to believe that what the leader says will eventually come to pass. Relationships form and grow when others have confidence in the dependability of the leader’s words or actions.
Truth: Relationships mature as experience proves the essential truth of the follower’s initial perceptions about joining in the relationship. It diminishes by the reverse. As people or things are proved to be less than we expected or different from our initial perceptions, we withdraw from the relationship.
Expertise: Relationships develop as followers trust the inner leader’s competence and expertise. Followers expect that those they interact with, especially their leaders, will be competent to perform in their roles.
Voluntary acceptance: Joining in relationship with the inner leader is voluntary, noncompulsory, a free-will choice.
Trusteeship: Followers freely interact with their leader when they see that the inner leader assumes a trustee relationship toward them and the work community generally.
Trust: Willingness to relate to the inner leader and the members of the leader’s work community results when individual members believe they can bank on their word, promise, or verbal or written statements (Gambetta, 1988).
Recognition of the worth of followers: Relationships come together when followers have confidence in the fact that their inner leader values them as people of worth, when they realize that they really matter as individuals (Britton and Stallings, 1986).
Productivity: Relationships form when followers believe their leaders can make them effective. Effectiveness is based on the willingness of participants to place themselves in the inner leader’s hands, to rely on the leader for some or all of their individual success.
Problem solving: Followers relate to the inner leader when that leader is seen as an effective problem-solver. Only in this circumstance will followers voluntarily allow their leader (or anyone else) to have significance influence on decisions affecting their work life.
Assigning meaning: As inner leaders assign meaning to people, ideas, words, events, or the work community itself, they can develop relationships with others who also seek that meaning.
Free and open information flow: Effective relationships require bilateral transmission of information and understanding. Free-flowing information systems permit reciprocal influence, encourage self-control, and avoid abuse of the vulnerability of members.
Enabling: Followers join their leaders in work relationships when they are given power, authority, and responsibility enough to function independently within the constraints of the work community’s vision and values. When the relationships inner leaders create with their followers encourage creativity, intelligence, willingness, and drive, followers will join together in the common work.
Collaboration: As inner leaders develop organizational structures and endeavor to align followers with tasks using commonly agreed-upon goals, mutual interaction, common language, and symbols, joint problem-solving and shared decision-making relationships form.
Contribution: Followers want to make a contribution to worthwhile activity. They will join in relationships when their inner leaders encourage them to work in ways that allow them to make a strong contribution to the work community’s tasks and to themselves.
Mutual interactive trust is a critical element of any effective work relationship between inner leaders and those led. Handy (1976) says to trust is to take a chance on the other person. Trust increases the truster’s vulnerability while simultaneously increasing the strength of the relationship. Rogers (1964) asserted that leaders can causally link trust to increased originality and emotional stability in their relationships with people. Trust is cyclical. The more leaders trust their followers, the more trusting the relationship becomes. And, alternatively, the more they distrust others, the more distrust is present in the relationship.
While the advantages appear to be numerous, developing a trusting relationship requires maturity and perseverance. It also takes strength. An inner leader cannot demand trust of another. Trust must be earned, developed. Trust is a gift given freely by coworkers because it is based in their confidence in and respect for the leader.
Joining in a relationship with followers asks leaders to accept an obligation to the followers, as well as to expect followers to obligate themselves to them. The sense of obligation members of a relationship feel is the foundation of successful relationships. While work-community theory assumes, but largely ignores, the idea of interpersonal relationships, nevertheless it is integral to leader–follower interactivity. Typically, asking followers to be obligated to their leaders and to the in-place structural and process systems is understood and accepted. Less clear, but equally powerful, is the obligation inner leaders assume merely through the act of accepting leadership responsibilities.