The Most Important Question You Will Ever Be Asked as a Leader

This is a guest post by Jeremie Kubicek. He is the author of the new book, Leadership is Dead: How Influence is Reviving It. He is also the CEO of GiANT Impact, the company that owns Catalyst and produces the Chick-fil-A Leadercast. You can follow Jeremie on Twitter or read his blog. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

To be a true influencer in the lives of those you lead, you must understand a simple, but powerful question. It is one your followers are asking. It goes like this: “Are you for me, against me, or for yourself?”

Followers Holding Up Question Mark Signs in Front of Their Faces - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs, Image #11860969

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri_Arcurs

It is a great question, one that is asked by those you and I lead at least once within the relationship. Once the question has been confirmed, it rarely comes up again. Our followers know our intent towards them or at least towards ourselves.

Here is an exercise you can do to fully understand the concept:

  • Make a list your past 5-10 bosses or influencers in your life.
  • Beside their name simply write whether or not they were for you, against you, or for themselves.
  • Think about a few key examples to solidify your answer.

I would guess that, in most cases, you wrote down that they were for themselves. It is rare to have your last several leaders be against you. (If so, there may be other issues at work.) And while some are adamantly for you, my experience is that most leaders are more focused on things that affect themselves.

That is not a crime. Nor is it a major character flaw. I have had dozens of leaders that I have appreciated who have been deeply focused on themselves first and foremost. The problem is that they are not memorable. Therefore, they are not significant in my life.

Oh, but I do remember those who were for me. Not only do I remember them, I revere them and value them as leaders and friends. These leaders believed in me, listened to me and appreciated my gifts. Not only that, but they intently invested in my life in significant and valuable ways.

I remember leaders like Kent Humphreys, who poured himself in to me and showed me how to serve employees and vendors. Or, Johnny Bingaman, who gave up time and energy to listen to me and counsel me in my early entrepreneurial years. These men were for me.

Now, back to those in your life. Those you lead or serve are asking you a question. Some already believe they have an answer. Are you for them, against them, or for yourself? Make this next exercise mean something.

  1. Make a list of people you lead or serve within your organization.
  2. Beside their names ask yourself if you are for them, against them or for yourself?
  3. Next to that list write how you believe they see you. Do you think they believe you are for them, against them or for yourself?
  4. Now, ask yourself the same question about your family members.

Do you think most people in your life have already answered this question? If so, how can you open the topic up again and, perhaps, change their mind?

If our goal is to “do unto others as we would want done to us,” then I suggest as leaders we reevaluate who we are for and why? If we can show others that we are authentically for them then I believe you will find yourself having even greater influence with those you lead.

I gave away 100 copies of Leadership is Dead. To qualify, my readers had to comment below. You can find the list of winners here.
Question: Why do you want a copy of Jeremie’s new book? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Teresa

    What a powerful message. It really helps clarify the leaders you come into contact with. More importantly it made me think of my role as a servant, a friend and a parent.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. I decided to evaluate many of my past employers using the criteria. As well as family members. Amazing that many were of the “for themselves” variety. There was a “remnant” though, that have always been for me. I am certainly appreciative for their presence in my life.

    Re: Leadership book. My wife and I both received our M.Div. degrees from Fuller Seminary. We are looking to relocate real soon and may eventually plant a church in the area. This book would help us develop as we lead a congregation of people as pastors. Thanks.

    Again, loved the post.

  • Josh Ketchum

    It looks like a significant book in developing a new paradimgn regarding leadership success now and into the future. It will be helpful for me as a minister in trying to influence others and looks like a good book to share with the elders and others influential men and women.

    Thanks.

    • Josh Ketchum

      That should be “paradigm” instead of my poor spelling. Josh

  • Svanderzicht

    I love the title. Very intriguing. And I’m drawn by the simple question you say is asked by those we lead: “Are you for me, against me, or for yourself?” I’m for you!

  • bethanyplanton

    This is a great exercise to do! My current boss is one of those people who is for me and because of her I have been able to grow in my position at the company and am prepared for when I leave this position due to graduation and marriage and work somewhere else!

  • InSpirit

    really appreciate the practicality of @
    JeremieKubicek

    ‘s exercises – insights expressed here are a good indication of influential material i’m looking for as i pioneer a new Kingdom venture – MANY THX!

  • Dougrowles

    I don’t think leadership is dead, just out of touch with reality.

  • http://twitter.com/evdoyle Evan Doyle

    I heard Jeremie at the Chick-fil-a Leadercast last week, and it was really good. I can’t wait to read his book to learn more about the future of leadership!

  • http://www.zioneyemedia.com David

    I would LOVE to be able to have this book as part of my outreach to my sphere. As one who has been strongly and effectively mentored within the professional realm, I believe that it’s more than just who you teach and what you teach them. Rather, it is how your wisdom is being imparted and applied in each person you engage with. Leadership is not just a method of making you feel better about yourself; that you molded someone into who you think they should be. Leadership is a sacrifice, a servant attitude, one that would bend his knee to wash one’s feet in the same manner as Jesus did to His disciples. It is in this servant attitude that replaces the self-serving mentality and performance-based mindset with a loving, relational, engaging, and “how can I serve you” perspective that brings transformation to the mind, heart, soul, and spirit.

    I agree that authentic leadership requires authentic servanthood, and as you said:

    “These leaders believed in me, listened to me and appreciated my gifts. Not only that, but they intently invested in my life in significant and valuable ways.”

    The impartation of values, ethics, and morals is dependent on the hows, whys and when we invest in someone else’s life. The more we value them and see them the way God sees them, the better we can help them achieve, guide, and mentor their paths that God has for them.

  • http://twitter.com/brettberchtold Brett Berchtold

    Thank you, Jeremie, for this post! You’re doing excellent work at GiANT. I am very thankful for many of the great resources GiANT has provided over the years.

    I love this post because through the exercise you described above, I’ve found that the people in my life that have had the most impact on me, those who were definitely for me and others, were strong self-leaders. As John Maxwell says, self-leadership is the hardest form of leadership. I struggle with this more than any other thing in my personal growth journey.

    If I were to receive your book, I would use it to become more self-aware of the ways I haven’t focused on other people, how I can focus more on others, and ultimately have more influence on those that I serve.

    I have gotten a taste of your book with the sample chapter (which I love the Action steps by the way). Now, I want to consume it and let it make an impact on me for the benefit of others.
    In success,
    Brett

  • http://twitter.com/chembabe0 Rebecca Pierrot

    As a budding leader in various outlets, I realize that although I didn’t ask for leadership, my gift has been recognized by others. So now that I’ve recognized it, I have an obligation to hone my skills and develop an effective style. This is why I follow @michaelhyatt. This is why i’m interested in Jeremie’s book.

  • http://garzaworld.posterous.com/ bevo92

    I work for a small business organization. There were times that I would bring home organizational or leadership dilemmas and issues to discuss with my wife who works in management for a large Fortune 500 organization. Most of the times I disagreed with her “build up the team member” approach as I didn’t think it would work in a small organization. Dealing with difficult or unmotivated co-workers in this setting, my approach was always “get rid of the bum” and find someone else who will fit in. I have now experienced first hand that this approach is totally off base and counter productive. I have seen tangible examples of what building up team members can do not only for the organization but for how I feel about my true role as a leader. The power of knowing I can possibly become a positive influence in a person’s life is incredible. I believe learning more about Kubecik’s approach would greatly assist my growth into a leader and benefit not only my organization, but my influence on family friends and my community. “Do unto others as we would want done to us” classic advice no matter what your religious or spiritual background is.

  • http://twitter.com/ryanrotman Ryan Rotman

    Looks like a fantastic book. Definitely appropriate as a young leader in a church. Always looking for great new books out there to get my hands on.

  • Roberta

    Hi,

    I know I’ve been called to lead and want to help others become all that God has made them to be. I want to be the kind of leader who serves people with a humble heart full of gratitude and love for God and them. I think this book would be a valuable tool in helping me accomplish that goal. I also appreciate any help you can offer and am very grateful to God for your service to all of us. You have been a wonderful help for me. Thank you and God bless, Roberta

  • http://twitter.com/DanielBecerra Daniel Becerra

    After naming the people in my team and asking myself the question “Am I for them, against them, or for myself?” My immediate answer was “I am for them”, but then it hit me “What if they don’t perceive that?”. My struggle lies in the uncertainty of whether or not my team is SURE that I am for them. I find that even if my intentions are the best, if I am not aware that my actions are interpreted as I want them to be, then the intentions are almost pointless. I really intend for my actions to tell the story “I am for you”. I want to be as intentional about it as possible. And I believe this book can help me get there. Thank you in advance!

  • Ben Dueck

    This book looks great! I’d be interested in getting a copy of it as I am currently taking a Masters degree in leadership. I’d love to see Kubicek’s take on the topic, and it would probably assist in many of my assignments!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TONIPL2THA7K357CDMJWJZWQR4 c

    Wow, looks like another winning book! Please keep them coming!

  • Anonymous

    I would love a copy of this book as I am a leader in my home, in my church, in my job and would love any help in becoming a better leader. A leader cannot be only for themselves.

  • Jim

    I want this book to better myself and teach to those I lead. I am pastor, church planter, and an entreprenuer.

  • artefactaudio

    That’s a great question. I just became a part of an organizational health committee where I work and it’s linked to our center of our conversation in just recent months. I’ve love to dive deeper into what Kubicek has to say.

  • http://twitter.com/kenat Nathalie Hatch

    I am part of a leadership team in a local church and found the question very thought provoking and yet gets right to the point – for, against or
    for self! Love it! I would love to be able to bring this book to our leadership table and create some dialog about this very topic – God wants a family and to be a real family we have to have the same heart towards seeing others succeed as well as others seeing us to succeed – family members are for the good of the whole not just the parents or the parents just for the kids, etc. Great article, thank you for sharing!

    Nathalie Hatch

  • http://twitter.com/austinnroberts Austin Roberts

    This exercise was actually really helpful. I noticed from this example that I have had it pretty good seeing that my previous and current boss has been really “for me.” It really helped me analyze myself as a leader too. Though, I believe I am definitely “for” my followers, I have to always make sure I keep that in mind. I would also say that I am “for myself” because I find a lot of satisfaction in the things I do in my leadership positions. They are great confidence boosters, strengthening my academic, time management, communication, and people skills. Yet, even with these awesome benefits, I must make sure to put my followers right up there with them. Thank you for reminding me of that!

  • Jim

     Great idea and book.  I have been a pastor for 31 years, church planter for 3 years, and entrepreneur.  I would love to have this book to read and use as a resource for those I lead.  Thanks  Jim Laymon

  • http://twitter.com/plantedinchrist Brandon Weldy

     Lately i have been working on my leadership abilities. It started with reading some blogs and working on my life plan. Now I have been on a search for some books to help me in this journey. I was really challenged by this blog post and doing the exercise really opened my eyes to some things about relationships that I have with people that I was unaware of before. I currently for a small congregation in rural Missouri but I desire to be the leader God wants me to be no matter where I am or who it is that I am leading. 

  • Paul Dudding

    Being a young leader , I have been told repeatedly that a leader is a reader , and having an opportunity to add another great resource is awesome . I want the youth that I lead to know I am there for them , and a book that helps address the issue on how to let them know that I am there for them sounds awesome . I appreciate the opportunity to receive.this book. Thank you.

  • A.Moon

     I love books! I love books about leadership! It’s that simple… I want the Jeremie’s new book.  I also want to share it with my team.

  • http://twitter.com/scheidj Joshua Scheid

    I am excited for a leadership book that focuses more on the way a leader relates to others than on ways the leader should improve his or her own characteristics for personal gain.  As a seminary student, it’s a challenge not to envy the success of megachurch, blogging pastors (you know who I’m talking about); however, it is crucial to remember to focus on communicating a true message and fostering authentic relationships with others.  Pastors have to be the ultimate encouraging mobilizers!

  • B. Robbins

    Great post, @67f9aa4cecba761cfbdac4deb035d6fc:disqus! This post has definitely got me thinking. I am a young leader training for pastoral ministry and have often encountered this question already.  I desire to learn more 0n the topic, in an effort to become the best leader I can be.  I am very passionate about ministry and impacting lives, so I do my best to be intentional about my learning, in order to be most effective in leadership.  I would love a copy of the book for this reason and feel that it would be very helpful in my leadership growth process.  Thank you so much, Michael for sharing this post with us! Posts like these are the kind that have great impact on my process of growth as a leader and that I often find are just what I need at the time. Thank you again!! This post has definitely got me thinking. I am a young leader training for pastoral ministry and have often encountered this question already.  I desire to learn more 0n the topic, in an effort to become the best leader I can be.  I am very passionate about ministry and impacting lives, so I do my best to be intentional about my learning, in order to be most effective in leadership.  I would love a copy of the book for this reason and feel that it would be very helpful in my leadership growth process.  Thank you so much, Michael for sharing this post with us! Posts like these are the kind that have great impact on my process of growth as a leader and that I often find are just what I need at the time. Thank you again!

  • B-robbins

     and somehow my last comment posted the same thing one on top of the other. Not sure how that happened. My apology!

  • Kristegoad

     I want this book because I think it will help me be the kind of leader I want to be to others and will also help me be clear on the kinds of people I want to follow.

  • Pingback: 7 Kinds of Leadership | Brevis from Bob Ewoldt

  • Cpl M

    Im a Marine. Ive been a lower rank for some time and recently been promoted and then placed in charge of a group of men. Ive had quite a few leaders in my time in the corps who were not just for themselves but were against everyone .Now that Im in a leadership position I find myself struggling with not becoming the way my “mentors” were before me. Id like to make a positive difference in my time not just with my platoon but with my peers as well.

  • Jon Lorensen

    Will add if you will ” If you snooze you lose”  how can I get a copy of this book?