Good Leadership Means Asking This Important Question

June 28, 2021
leadership question

How do you define good leadership? There are obviously a number of traits that make a good leader, but I think all leaders should be focusing more on asking one simple question.

“What can I do to support you?”

It’s not a complicated question, but it is a question that defines excellent leaders and good leadership. 

Your job is to keep your employees or team members engaged, motivated, and inspired to perform. As leaders, we are tasked with making time to grow and develop our teams – even when competing priorities loom overhead. 

So what keeps leaders from asking their teams this question?

Leaders are overfunctioning

Chances are, you got where you are because you’re a high performer. You see a need and you fill it. You see a problem and you solve it. But when it comes to leading your team – you’re overfunctioning.

When your team doesn’t perform as expected, or makes a mistake, you swoop in to point out the error and tell them how to fix it. This results in a lack of confidence and self-doubt in your team, even if you end up with the results you wanted. 

This behavior is well-intentioned. You want your employees to know they can count on you – that you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and do the work. But this overreaching behavior only stunts your team’s growth and leaves them feeling like you don’t believe they are capable of meeting your expectations.

Good leadership prioritizes the employee

At its core, the problem with overfunctioning is that the leader is focusing more on themselves and their needs than on their employees. When leaders fear that a task or project won’t be done correctly or quickly enough, they step in and just do it themselves. 

This behavior is typically indicative that a leader is more focused on being right than on being a good leader

How will an employee learn from a mistake or improve their skills in a new, unknown situation if their leader is constantly diving in and doing the work for them? 

When you overstep as a leader, you’re showing your employee you don’t believe they are capable or resourceful enough to figure out the right answer or ask the right questions. When you’re consistently overfunctioning, your employees will internalize these beliefs – to the detriment of the employee and the company. 

Practicing good leadership 

Instead of stifling your team’s growth, you can empower and motivate them by following a simple action plan.

  1. Clarify the outcomes you expect – be crystal clear and confirm that the employee understand the expectations
  2. Share how you expect them to accomplish the assignment or task – reinforce the behavior you desire
  3. Ask the most important question: “What can I do to support you in this?”

This simple question shows them that you are on their side – you have their back – without shifting accountability or ownership for the results. You clearly expect them to achieve the outcome, but they know if they get stuck or have questions, they can come to you for support. 

Instead of swooping in and “saving the day,” (while undermining your employee’s confidence and self-confidence) you motivate them to take action, show them you believe they can drive success and overcome adversity, and reinforce accountability. 

According to Gallup, only the greatest leaders have the ability to create this kind of environment for their employees. 

Following this simple process and making it a habit to ask, “What can I do to support you?” will help you escape the trap of doing it all as a leader and inspire your team to grow their confidence, develop their skills, and achieve excellence. Try stepping out, giving this system a try, and step up your leadership skills in the process. 

To build your own leadership action plan and avoid overfunctioning in your workplace, schedule a call today.


Tricia is a global business leader, author, and leadership coach. Her unique corporate background gives her a clear understanding of the personal and professional challenges that senior business leaders face today. She brings real-life expertise around talent, culture, and leadership to every coaching engagement. Tricia is committed to helping individuals, teams and organizations accelerate performance.  

Tricia believes this can be done with authenticity and staying true to personal values, beliefs, and leadership styles.

Tricia Manning © 2024 All Rights Reserved.
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