The Most Important Leadership Idea, Today

A young leader asked, “What’s the most important leadership idea?” He wants the down and dirty truth. The one thing.

Honestly, my answer changes.

This time I said, “Leadership is about understanding others and getting them to do what they want to do.”

you must know people in order to lead people

I used to think leadership was getting people to do what I wanted them to do. Sounds great to control freaks. But, I’ve learned that leadership is about others.

The key:

In order to lead people you must know and understand people.

  1. How do they define success?
  2. What gives them energy?
  3. What drains them?
  4. What are their values?
  5. What is their background?
  6. What are their hobbies?
  7. What makes them proud?

Bonus: What’s their favorite project?

If you don’t know the people you lead, they’re just tools.


One of your great leadership opportunities is helping people define and clarify their own journey.

Express genuine interest in people.

Treat people like employees, they’ll act like employees. Treat people with dignity, they’ll respect you.

Get started:

Everyone wants to feel known and accepted.

#1. Use their language:

If a salesperson loves fishing, say, “How can we fish for new clients today?”

#2. ask questions:

  1. Ask a question over coffee. “What’s giving you energy right now,” for example.
  2. Ask yourself, after they answer, “What did I just learn about them?”
  3. How can I align your energy with organizational objectives?

#3. ask the second questions:

The second question reveals values and purpose. “What’s important to you about that?”

Motivation connects to purpose and values.

#4. watch for energy:

What are they doing when their eyes light up? Tap into that. Spend your energy fueling theirs.

The most important leadership idea, today: Understand the people on your team.

What’s the most important leadership idea, today?

**See how Facebook fans responded to, “The one thing I’d say to a young leader is ______.”