Asking Yourself This 1 Question Will Instantly Reveal Whether You’re a Good Leader

Written by Marcel Schwantes, Principal and founder, Leadership From the Core

The answer to the question is what will separate exceptional leaders from mere bosses.

Ever worked for a leader who left an imprint on your life? The type that took you under his or her wing, coached and mentored you, removed obstacles from your path, and was always available for you?

That person may be in the minority in the world of transactional management and carrot-and-stick motivation approaches. But if you’ve experienced such a leader’s unique greatness, you’ll never forget how they made you feel.

  • They didn’t get caught up in their positional power or take advantage of their title.
  • They inspired you by making you feel like an equal.
  • They shared some of the decision making with you and stretched your growth.
  • They provided you with all the resources you needed to do your best work.

For those staring at the bullets above like a deer in headlights, let me assure you: They do exist.

Leaders like these aren’t characters in some rose-colored Hollywood script. They are real humans beings that arrived there through hard work, trial and error, and a wholehearted commitment to be and do their best.

The 1 question you need to ask yourself

If you’re in a leadership role now or aspiring to one, the journey toward leadership greatness never ends. But it does have a starting point.

It’s asking yourself this question: Whom did I impact today?

This is a question that has to be firmly embedded in the back of your mind and at the forefront of your mindset every single day.

It’s a hard prerequisite if you’re willing to commit to the journey. By asking yourself this question as you lay your head on your pillow at night, you can open up a world of opportunities to make an immediate impact on people starting right now (or the next day).

But first, an important reminder to take to your heart. We tend to forget the impact we have on the people entrusted to our care — whether they’re employees, customers, students, or our own children. They listen, they watch, and they scrutinize our every move and motive. Hence, don’t underestimate the impact you have on people. Leadership is an enormous responsibility with, quite literally, livelihoods at stake.

To make a real difference in those lives, to raise their performance, and to increase their loyalty toward their work, we need a constant reminder that will help us take ownership of being the very best leader we can be for those people.

One of those reminders is counterintuitive: It’s to become a giver — giving of your time, energy, wisdom, and knowledge; and pouring into your people’s growth to make them better (which makes you, and your organization, better).

It’s ultimately doing the unthinkable for purveyors of egocentric, command-and-control management styles: putting your followers’ interests ahead of your own. But when you do, it leads to unprecedented competitive advantage.

So, back to the power of the question — whom did I impact today? Framing it in its proper leadership context, the answer to that question can now become the highest measure of success for you as a leader, manager, executive, parent, board chair, teacher, coach, physician, politician. The bar has been raised, and raised high.

Now a moment of raw honesty. If you’re not impacting anyone (in business or your personal life), I say this with all due respect: You’re probably not leading very well.

Answering the question — whom did I impact today? — with a level of confidence means you’ve arrived at taking the higher leadership road of success. If your desire is to place others in the position to be their very best, you are well on your way to becoming an exceptional leader and boss.

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