There are many things that a leader does, but none is more important than answering the questions of his or her best followers. As the saying goes, “eagles don’t fly with turkeys” and that applies as much to leaders as it does to coworkers as the best team members won’t follow a poor leader. Being a good leader is not as hard as you think it is; especially, if you take a questioning approach to its challenges. I call these the “questions of leadership.”
The big question you have to answer is “Why should I follow you?” It’s a fair question as being on someone’s team and doing a good job takes lots of time and energy that cannot be replaced. Good leadership requires you to be a complete and motivating answer to this question. The more talented team members are, the more likely they will move on if they feel they are wasting their time and energy.
Losing good team members when you don’t have to is called voluntary controllable turnover. It happens when a team member decides to quit for things the leader controls such as clear direction, feedback, and the quality of team members… Even in a traditionally high turnover industry, there are leaders who have low turnover and others who have high turnover. Thus, the importance of being a good answer to the question, “Why should I follow you?”
Answering this question is a critical part of achieving results, especially when you think about the primary challenge of leading: Earning the loyalty of enthusiastic and committed followers and molding them into a high performance team that achieves results. The team performs because the leader leads, and the leader leads by answering the five questions of follower loyalty:
1. Where are we going?
2. What does the destination look like?
3. How will we get there?
4. Can you get us there?
5. What’s in it for me?
The first question mirrors one of the most common complaints we see in our customers’ employee, or team member, surveys: clarity of direction. This boils down to silent priorities and an unclear picture of the future and how each team member fits into it. The answer to the second question has to do with personal inspiration and values match. Team members want to know that their efforts serve some purpose that is valuable to them and not just to the company. The third question asks if the path to success makes sense. On employee surveys team members often complain about the lack of priorities, too many priorities, or that what is being done makes no sense to them. This is related to the fourth question: the credibility of the leader. When Team members don’t believe their leader knows what he or she is doing they may stay if they can’t get another job, but they will not follow with enthusiasm and commitment. Finally, there is the fifth question: “What’s in it for me?” Team members must make the choice to put in the time and effort required for the team to be successful. Team members need to know what future opportunities and rewards are possible for today’s effort and commitment.
To earn the loyalty of enthusiastic and committed followers and mold them into a team that achieves results means team members need a compelling answer to each question. The extent to which a leader can consistently anticipate answers to these questions before they are asked will not only influence controllable turnover, but the team’s ability to grow and achieve.
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