Why Should Anyone Be Led by You

Topics: Leadership, Management, Chief executive officer Pages: 30 (7040 words) Published: January 9, 2013

Why Should Anyone
Be Led by You?
by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones

Included with this full-text Harvard Business Review article: 1 Article Summary
The Idea in Brief—the core idea
The Idea in Practice—putting the idea to work
2 Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?
10 Further Reading
A list of related materials, with annotations to guide further exploration of the article’s ideas and applications

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Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?

The Idea in Brief

The Idea in Practice

The question “Why should anyone be led
by you?” strikes fear in the hearts of most
executives. With good reason. You can’t get
anything done without followers, and in
these “empowered” times, followers are
hard to find—except by leaders who excel
at capturing people’s hearts, minds, and

Nobody wants to work with a perfect
leader—he doesn’t appear to need help. So
show you’re human—warts and all. You’ll
build collaboration and solidarity between
you and your followers, and underscore your

How do you do that? Of course, you need
vision, energy, authority, and strategic direction—and these four additional qualities: • Show you’re human, selectively revealing
• Be a “sensor,” collecting soft people data
that lets you rely on intuition.
• Manage employees with “tough empathy.” Care passionately about them and their work, while giving them only what
they need to achieve their best.


• Dare to be different, capitalizing on your
Mix and match these qualities to find the
right style for the right moment.
Without all four qualities, you might climb
to the top. But few people will want to follow you, and your company won’t achieve its best results.

• Don’t expose a weakness that others see as
fatal. (A new finance director shouldn’t reveal his ignorance of discounted cash flow!) Choose a tangential weakness instead.
• Pick a flaw that others consider a strength,
e.g., workaholism.
Hone your ability to collect and interpret subtle interpersonal cues, detecting what’s going on without others’ spelling it out.

staff. Though many employees lost jobs,
Dyke kept people’s commitment.
Capitalizing on what’s unique about yourself
lets you signal your separateness as a leader,
and motivates others to perform better. Followers push themselves more if their leader is just a little aloof.
• Don’t overdifferentiate yourself—you could
lose contact with followers. Robert Horton,
former CEO of British Petroleum, conspicuously displayed his formidable intelligence. Followers saw him as arrogant, and detached themselves from him. He was dismissed after three years. • Distinguish yourself through qualities like

imagination, expertise, and adventuresomeness.

Franz Humer, highly successful CEO of
Roche, a health-care research company,
senses underlying currents of opinion,
gauges unexpressed feelings, and accurately judges relationships’ quality. Tip:
• Test your perceptions: Validate them with a
trusted advisor or inner-team member.
Real leaders empathize fiercely with their followers and care intensely about their people’s work. They’re also empathetically “tough.” This
means giving people not necessarily what
they want, but what they need to achieve their
BBC CEO Greg Dyke knew that to survive in
a digital world, the company had to spend
more on programs and less on people. He
restructured the organization, but only after
explaining this openly and directly to the

page 1

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