Five Fundamental Questions for Leaders: Question Two - Why Should They Follow You?
Five fundamental questions should be the focus of attention for anyone willing to take a leadership role in today’s organisations. These questions are at the heart of understanding what it is the leader seeks to achieve and how his or her character, integrity and skill will make the vision a reality.
- What Do You Stand For?
- Why Should They Follow You?
- What Will be Different?
- Who’s On Your Side?
- Who Listens When You Speak?
The stunning realisation - and the discovery that has changed the core of leadership development and theory - was that they had all been looking in the wrong place. The key to a leader’s influence is not, in fact, their ability, personality or charisma. The only thing that defines a leader is whether people choose to follow or not. Thus the only thing that defines a leader is the existence of followers. No followers, no leadership.
Today’s informed studies of leadership focus on the relationship between the leader and the followers not what the leader is good at, or what his or her track record of achievements is or what his or her personality type is. None of these things is important or relevant to followers. The key question in their mind is whether they believe that this person can deliver on the promise.
So the reflection for today’s leader - and the source of much learning - is on what he or she has to offer. This is in line with the concept of servant leadership - leading by being of service. In a slightly different context it is the intention behind John F Kennedy’s often quoted words from his 1961 inaugural speech “… ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
For today’s leader - whether it is a nation, organisation, department, division or team - you should develop what some call the “elevator pitch”. This is the one-minute speech you make which justifies why you are worth listening to, talking with or buying from. The vital element to focus on is not what makes you a great leader but why they should be led by you. What can they expect from you? What is in it for them? Why should they choose you and your ideas? Why should they trust what you have to say? How do they know you will behave in a way where your actions math your words?
In today’s organisations leadership is sought and practised at all levels. But without followers there is no leadership. The question “Why Should They Follow You?” should be at the heart of all leadership coaching, learning and development.