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.

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