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Home  /  Podcast   /  Building connections with Dr. Michelle Johnston

In this instalment of the Training Unleashed podcast, host Evan Hackel sat down with Dr. Michelle K. Johnston to discuss the shift in leadership style from a “command and control” style to one based on building connections with yourself, your style of communication and your organization.

What Is the shift in Leadership that Michelle Has Identified?

Michelle noticed this change in leadership style when she realized that executives who were still using a “command and control” style were getting pushed out of organizations and were no longer valued.

The New Leadership Is About Connection, Connection, Connection

Michelle’s research found that leaders who were getting pushed out had failed to establish a deep connection with the people on their teams. Their teams didn’t trust them. Their teams thought they were inauthentic, sometimes fake. They wondered, who is this person?

They couldn’t tell because their leader was putting on a professional act by trying to look like what a leader should be. And she saw that today’s most effective leaders are all about connection.

Michelle’s Deeper Levels of Connection
Connect with Yourself

Michelle describes this step as “giving yourself permission to be who you really are.” She stresses that to become connected to yourself, you need to engage in a lot of self-reflection. Spend a lot of time owning your story. Who are you? Where are you from? What is a significant life event that made you who you are today? What did you learn from that? How did it shape you? Also ask, what are your superpowers? What are your strengths? Do you really understand yourself?

When you are comfortable in your own skin, you can bring your “whole self” to your work and your teams. Only then can you really connect with others.

Connect to Your Communication Style

Michelle has developed a self-assessment tool about identifying and owning your communication style. She includes it in her new book The Seismic Shift in Leadership: How to Thrive In A New Era Of Connection.

Owning your communication style means asking questions like . . .

  • Who am I?
  • How do I “show up” as a communicator?
  • What are my defaults?

As she went through this assessment, Michelle determined that her greatest strengths lay in being a nurturing coach and a facilitator. But she had been suppressing those natural skills because she believed that if she wasn’t a “command and control” leader, people wouldn’t take her seriously. It took courage, but over time she was able to develop a leadership style that allowed everyone to connect to her and to grow and learn from each other.

“And so I had to take that huge risk to go in and do things differently that were more me and felt authentic,” Michelle told Evan. “And once I did that, then I was connecting with those around me. So that’s that second level of connection with your team.”

Connect to Your Organization

Michelle interviewed 18 business leaders from around the world and helped them deconstruct and understand their connection to their organizations. She had them talk about their successes and their failures, for example. And she has them explore questions like these:

• How do I most successfully connect to our organization?

• Am I able to align people with the organization’s goals?

• How does my calendar help me align and support your organization’s goals?

• How do you create an environment of psychological safety and trust in each other?

About Our Guest

Dr. Michelle K. Johnston is a management professor, executive coach, and leadership expert helping leaders achieve results through meaningful connection. She is an award-winning professor studying leadership and business communication, and her research has shown a clear link between a team’s effective communication and its positive financial performance. Michelle is a celebrated keynote speaker presenting at conferences and events nationwide. She received her PhD in communication from Louisiana State University and was named to the prestigious 100 Coaches group, which consists of the top executive coaches around the world. Michelle serves as the Gaston Chair of Business at Loyola University New Orleans where she teaches in the graduate and undergraduate programs in the College of Business. She lives in her beloved city of New Orleans, Louisiana, with her daughter, Elizabeth.

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