Leadership Journey: Why Should I Follow You?

By Dana Gillis, Executive Coach – While conducting a leadership workshop on difficult conversations, Brooke spoke to course participants about a question she faced years ago that led to a series of critical discussions with her executive coach. It was a pivotal point in her leadership journey.

At the end of the first coaching session with her coach Marcus, Brooke was asked, “Why should I follow you?” A simple question with a straightforward answer . . . or so she thought.

leadership journey Brooke was taken aback when Marcus responded to her answer, “That’s just not an inspiring reason for me to fall in line behind you.”

How could this be?!?!? Brooke was an overachiever, consistently exceeding the expectations of her supervisors at every turn. She was recognized for providing competent and effective leadership over the teams she supervised throughout varying assignments.

Over the course of six months she spent working with Marcus, Brooke took a comprehensive look at her leadership journey searching for any nugget that would be helpful in answering Marcus’ query.

After weeks of feedback responding to the same simple question, Marcus finally smiled at what Brooke thought was going to be considered another failed attempt to dazzle her coach with wisdom and insight.  She finally nailed the answer to the question, staying true to her core values and her approach to life.

Flash forward almost 15 years, and Brooke decided to put the “Why should I follow you?” question to a group of fledgling junior executives for whom she was facilitating a group discussion on difficult conversations. As the conversation turned to topics that served as catalysts for crucial conversations, Brooke told the story about her chats with Marcus. Brooke put the question before the cohort to get them to think about their personal leadership journey and challenging conversations in a larger context. After doing so, Brooke noticed furious scribbling of notes and furrowed brows indicating a bit of reflection on the part of attendees regarding how they would respond to the question at hand.

Watching her charges grapple with the question, Brooke recalled the lightbulb moment she had about the reason people should follow her. The answer was simple and literally, right in front of her.

Every day, Brooke read the inscription on a paperweight she received for speaking to her local Rotary Club. The inscription read:Rotary four-way test The Four-Way Test.  1) Is it the Truth? 2) Is it Fair to all concerned? 3) Will It Build Good Will and Better Friendships? 4) Will it be Beneficial to all concerned? At the time of her epiphany, Brook realized that the way in which she led was a manifestation of her subconscious appropriation of the tenets of the Four-Way Test. This revelation led to the answer that helped Marcus feel confident that he could and would follow Brooke’s leadership.

The practice of leadership is not easy, nor is it hard. One key to being a Fearless Leader is to examine one’s core beliefs and do a bit of self-assessment. Do your behaviors align with your core values and beliefs? Take a moment of self-reflection to ask yourself what you believe in as you contemplate the question, “Why should someone follow me?” It’s a simple question with far-reaching implications for your leadership journey.

Think Fearless, Act Fearless, Be Fearless.