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Why Should Your Team Follow You?

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In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek contends that the foundational, underlying question you must answer in order for your business to thrive is “Why?” Why are you in business? Why are you called to this business? Why, why, why? Sinek claims that the answer to this question will unlock the intangible appeal that draws customers to your door (or website).

I’m not as sold as Sinek is that your customers are all that interested in why you do what you do. (I think they’re much more interested in the question, “Can you solve my problem?”) But I think there is a “why” question that all leaders should be able to answer:

Why should your team follow you?

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Why should your team follow you? Pretty simple question, isn’t it? But do you have a good answer? (By the way, if you find yourself scratching your head and pondering this question for, say, a half-hour or more, then no, you don’t have a good answer.)

For the record, here are some bad answers:

  • Because I was promoted to a leadership position and they weren’t.
  • Because I’m smarter than any of them.
  • Because I’m the loudest person in the room.

Let’s take a look at these answers a little more closely.

  • You were promoted to leadership. That’s great. It may even mean that you were really good at what you were doing before (although there could have been other factors of which you’re unaware). But remember, a promotion gives you a title, not a mandate. You and I both know that there are crappy leaders who have a title, and great leaders who have no title whatsoever. If your title is the only reason your team is following you, your “leadership” is eggshell-thin.
If your title is the only reason your team is following you, your leadership is eggshell-thin. Click To Tweet
  • You’re the smartest person in the room. Congratulations—and condolences. Congratulations because you’ve got some raw brainpower (or at least more raw brainpower than anyone else on your team—as far as you know). Congratulations as well on having a strong enough ego to assume that you are, indeed, the smartest person in the room. But condolences on being the leader of such a woefully inadequate team. If you truly are the smartest person in the room, then you’re missing out on the huge advantage you get when you have someone smarter and better than you to act as a “check” on your ideas. As I tell many of my clients, “If you’re consistently the smartest person in the room, you need to find a better room.”
If you’re consistently the smartest person in the room, you need to find a better room. Click To Tweet
  • You’re the loudest person in the room. Congratulations, Mr. Trump. Just remember: there is no known scientific correlation between volume and intelligence. “Loudness” is not a synonym for “good ideas.” If your team is only following you because you’re the loudest, that doesn’t make you a leader. That just makes you a bully.

Look, there are a lot of bad answers to the question, “Why should your team follow you?” But there’s really only one good answer, and it’s a three-parter:

  1. You know the destination. (Although you may call it the goal, the vision, the target, or something else.)
  2. Your team members want to get to that destination. (Although their reasons may be different than yours, and that’s okay.)
  3. Your team members trust that you are the one who can get them to the destination safely.
Do your team members trust you to get them safely to the goal? Click To Tweet

That’s it. That’s leadership in a nutshell. Yes, each of these parts takes work. But ultimately, that’s all there is to it.

So, let me ask you again…

Why should your team follow you?

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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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