Three Questions Every Leader Must Be Able to Answer

There are three questions every follower has of their leader. This information comes from legendary College Football Hall of Fame Coach, Lou Holtz. As a coach Holtz was famous for his ability to take a losing team and turn them into a winning team. During his college coaching career, he compiled a record of 249 wins, 132 losses, and 7 ties. Holtz’s 1988 Notre Dame team was undefeated and national champion.

Coach Holtz says of players when a new coach comes on the team, they have these three important questions (which consequently the coach has about the players too.) The same can be said of followers of their leader be she a new leader or already in place.

1. Can I trust you?

 At the heart of the matter it’s about relationships. Good, quality relationships have trust at their core. Without trust the relationship cannot exist long term and are deemed superficial. Unfortunately, many people have been burned in what they thought was a quality relationship only to find out that the other person was in it for the wrong and usually selfish reasons. People wonder whether their leaders are in it for themselves and their own advancement, recognition, and ego trip.

Trust is built over time and can be lost in an instant. When people are afraid of being taken advantage of they hold back, they wait to see if in fact they will be taken advantage of, in other words they are always skeptical and looking over their shoulder.

Trust is earned or lost one small act at a time between people based on their interactions. “Did you take advantage of me?” If so, trust is lost. If not, especially when someone was vulnerable, then trust is built.

As Stephen M. R. Covey observed in his book The Speed of Trust; when trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down. Conversely, when trust goes down, speed goes up and costs go up.

2.  Are you committed?

High-performers are in it for the long haul and they want to know that you are too. They are committed to achieving their goals. Commitment is the fuel that makes extraordinary things possible to be accomplished. Creativity is unleashed, new ideas abound and virtually anything is possible.

Commitment changes the game. Commitment comes when the cause is noble, rich with meaning for the participants, not just a job or a position, but an opportunity to achieve something extraordinary and to work on something that resonates with their values and passions.

Commitment is built when expectations are clear and explicit and people see that others have lived up to their promises. “Did you meet your commitment to me? If so, I will meet my commitment to you. If not, forget about it.” Too many leaders hold people up to phantom commitments without clear communication, follow-up, accountability, or opportunities for development in areas that need work.

The Gallup Organization has a simple survey called the Q12 which measures employees engagement. The first question on the Q12 is “Do I know what is expected of me at work?” Many leaders would say, heck yes they do, but that’s not the person who should be answering the question. It’s the employee that needs to answer it. Too many leaders forget that.

3. Do you care about me?

In days past, leaders were above the followers and a certain distance was essential to what  ineffective leaders believed to be the position. Being aloof, distant, keeping the followers in awe was part of the picture they painted. Being in control, being the “shell answer man”, having the title, perks and all the rest kept the leader above the masses. In today’s 24/7 world, of phone cameras and instant communications this simply won’t work as a matter of fact it never really did. Only some were fooled to believe they were leaders.

Real leaders are involved with their colleagues, they actually care, the pay attention to the details of their colleagues lives to their motivations, to their aspirations. They show appreciation for their capabilities and contributions.

They readily share credit and are keenly aware that great leadership emerges from the group performance. People want to know if leaders value them or view them only as a cog in the corporate productivity machine—squeezing more and more out of them until there is nothing left.

Real leaders care about people, they treat them fairly and with respect.

People implicitly ask, “If you don’t care about me, really care about me personally, then why should I care about you? If you do care about me, then what can I do to help you?

To your success!

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