The Toughest Question in Leadership [Guest Post]

discover-joy-of-leadershipWould you want to work for . . . you?

What insights can this question provide to you as a leader? Could this assist you in understanding how you could be more effective in being a better leader, and how to a better subordinate as well?

Jack Welch is the former CEO of General Electric and is respected widely, not only for his stewardship of this preeminent company, but also for his consistent support for the development of leaders at GE and in business in general. He said this was a critical developmental questions for any leader.

I, too, think this can be very powerful; but it made me reflect on a very painful lesson I learned about this as well.

In my last corporate assignment, I had six bosses and five CEOs in just over seven years. I lead a large team, and one area of my responsibility was leadership development.

I decided to explore whether a 360° assessment from the Center for Creative Leadership would be an effective tool for us to use. I solicited input for this, and received my feedback as a part of a three-day training session for this highly respected leadership tool.

We received our individual feedback at the end of the first day of the session and had to analyze the results, then discuss them the next morning with one of the facilitators.

The bad news is that my team’s assessment of this key question, “Would they want to work … for me?” was pretty much a resounding “NO!”

To say that I got “slammed” by the feedback is a bit of an understatement.

Our organization had undergone a consistent diet of very difficult organizational transitions, and uncertainty and disruption were the norm. I was a very driven leader and my team was well thought-of in terms of what we were able to produce. But the feedback that I received very clearly let me know that although the matter was fine, my manner left a lot to be desired.

I immediately called my boss, Jim.  I respected Jim a great deal, especially his easy-going but very direct style. I described my feedback to Jim and complained that this certainly could not be an accurate reflection of all of my hard work and all that my team and I had accomplished.

His immediate response was, “Are you sure about that, Willy?”

He told me that, although he had a lot of confidence in me getting things done, he had recently gotten some feedback that I could be harsh, dismissive and a less-than-pleasant fellow from time to time.

He reinforced my contributions and his confidence in my potential, but he stressed that this feedback was probably one of the best things that could happen to me, no matter how painful it may have felt at that time. That is, if I handled it well.

Jim was a great sounding board for me as I prepared to give the feedback to my team about my results, and to solicit their support in helping me develop into a much more effective leader. I worked diligently to ensure that I was a leader who my team not only respected, but who with whom they could truthfully say they valued their interactions.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to ask: Would you want to work for … me?
  • Do you know how to accept the feedback of your team and demonstrate the value you place on their candid input?
  • Are you willing to develop an action plan that will encourage those who provided feedback to partner with you in making improvements and enhancing your leadership effectiveness?


Willy Steiner is the President of Executive Coaching Concepts, an executive coaching services firm dedicated to assisting senior executives in taking their individual and organizational performance “TO THE NEXT LEVEL”.  He fine-tuned his skills in leading organizational change, building high performing teams and in devising innovative incentive systems with General Electric, RCA Corp. and Galileo International. Assisting executives in driving change by creating urgency, focus and alignment, with a keen eye for cultivating and sustaining necessary relationships, is an ongoing focus of his work. He is an expert in guiding organizations through complex international mergers and divestitures, blending distinct cultures and supporting growth in international markets.

For more about Willy, his new book, Discover the Joy of Leading: A practical guide to resolving your management challenges, and business, visit


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