Leadership Qualities Role Model Self awareness Team effectiveness

Why should anyone be led by you?

There’s always a gap between who we want or believe we should be and others’ perceptions of us. That gap is a great start when building great teams.

As a leader, your effectiveness and ability to inspire others depend on a robust level of self-awareness. This self-awareness, coupled with ambition and qualities that go beyond managerial effectiveness, is what sets you apart.

In the first two sections of my future book, I discuss self-awareness, and the second section discusses the qualities, awareness, and mindset needed to be the leader people follow, admire, and are inspired by.

Now, we’re bringing in other people, i.e., the teams we lead or aspire to lead. 

This section is about building, growing, nurturing, and performing teams. I dive deeper into creating clarity, trust, and alignment — the three components that lead to delivering the growth and results we’re all looking for.

Let’s start this section with the most crucial question to ask a leader who is or wants to be leading a team or organization.

Let’s dive into the heart of leadership: why should anyone choose to follow your lead?

I learned about this question at a workshop in London with two London Business School professors many years ago.

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, authors of the book “Why Should Anyone be Led by You?”, explained with much British humor how they accidentally came up with this book title.

They created a leadership research project where they interviewed many CEOs about their leadership style.

One of the questions was:

Why should anyone be led by you?

They elaborated extensively on how dumbstruck they were that few leaders could answer that question with a certain level of quality.

If I remember well (it’s been a while), one of the most commonly heard answers after some thinking was:

Because I get results.

Result orientation. You won’t find any profile created by a headhunter that does not have some description around result orientation.

I often wonder whether companies hire people who are not result-driven. 

I realize some people are more result-driven than others, but you won’t get very far if you cannot produce results.

Whatever business you’re in.

So, why should anyone be led by you?

Do you have a clear answer to this question? An answer that would inspire your team to work with you is if I ask you that question in front of them.

If you don’t have that answer, we should pause here for a solid moment and create the answer yourself. It doesn’t mean you have all the qualities already, but at least you should have the ambition. Scan through my last Insights, get inspired, and find your answers. It’s all in there.

Here are 34 things people will often say about leaders they admire (check what applies to you or your leader):
  1. Because they care about me.
  2. Because they take care of themselves and are self-aware.
  3. Because they know what’s going on in the organization.
  4. Because they’re aware of their impact.
  5. Because they’re curious.
  6. Because they don’t have all the answers.
  7. Because, therefore, they ask more questions and talk less in statements.
  8. Because they listen and don’t interrupt.
  9. Because they’re accessible and make time for me.
  10. Because they don’t take themselves too seriously and lead with humor and lightheartedness.
  11. Because they value fun, relaxation, well-being, and rest.
  12. Because they create clarity of direction.
  13. Because they communicate often and with clarity.
  14. Because they invest time in building trust, knowing it doesn’t come by itself and can easily get destroyed.
  15. Because they invest time in getting aligned, knowing that will create the energy we need to perform at the highest levels.
  16. Because they know what increases and what depletes energy.
  17. Because they know how to create freedom within a framework.
  18. Because they let me be who I am.
  19. Because they invest time in the growth of the team.
  20. Because they make quick decisions, delegate effectively, and can execute.
  21. Because they know that leading this way will create accountability among team members.
  22. Because they remain calm when the going gets tough.
  23. Because they’re resilient when needed.
  24. Because they stick to the plan and can adapt quickly when needed.
  25. Because they lead people according to the situation, not because that’s how they always lead.
  26. Because they help me grow my understanding of their role in my growth.
  27. Because they have a bias to action.
  28. Because they allow mistakes and do not pay lip service.
  29. Because they always ask for the lessons learned and expect them to be applied.
  30. Because they’re clear on expectations towards me and ask me about expectations towards them.
  31. Because they know how to influence the organization without direct authority and are only political when it helps the team move forward.
  32. Because they role model the values and behaviors that are expected of them, always, everywhere, and at all times.
  33. Because they’re human.
  34. Because they know that the result of all of this is that people feel safe with them, resulting in psychological safety across the entire organization.

That’s 34 qualities altogether. 

How many do you check? And is that what you think, or is that actual feedback from your team?

There’s always a gap between who we want or believe we should be and others’ perceptions of us.

That’s the starting point for an excellent team journey:

  • Start with yourself.
  • Include your team in your growth.
  • Bring them along with you.

When people know you’re self-aware, imperfect, and committed to your growth, they will be willing to open up and ask you to support them.

That’s true leadership, and that’s how high-performing teams are built — inside out and from the ground up. 

Your turn: Why should anyone be led by you?

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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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