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The Surprising Key to Leadership Success


Ask for what you need. 

You’ve likely heard this instruction at some point in your leadership journey. It’s simple wisdom, and yet, for many leaders, it can be such a challenge to implement.  

Folks seem to struggle with asking for anything, let alone admitting they have needs of any sort. It’s as though admitting that something is needed is the equivalent of being “unfit for office” as it were.  

Hogwash, I say.  

The fact is we ALL need something, more often than not. No matter how skilled we are, how smart we are, how strong we are, NEEDS exist. Period. Our success is found in being able to identify what those needs are, and then ask for help in having those needs met.  

I’ve recently noticed folks holding back from making their needs known (and yes, I include myself in this group of folks). It doesn’t seem to matter if the needs are physical, emotional, or mental in nature -- something gets in the way of the asking.  

Fear is most often the core culprit. Fear of being misunderstood; fear of being perceived as inadequate or incapable (this is a big one); or even fear that needs will continue to go unmet. This last one might, in fact, be the biggest obstacle. Because who wants to ask for something, only to be told you can’t have it?  

The thing is when you don’t ask -- regardless of the reason -- you set yourself up for impending disaster.  When you have needs that go unmet, you cannot function optimally. You don’t have all resources at your disposal. So it’s time to stop holding back, and get comfortable with asking. 

I can just hear it now; “but I don’t always know what I need.”  

Fair enough. At least say THAT. A sentence like “listen, I need something right now, but I don’t know what it is” can be very helpful. It can help you in starting the process of identifying what you need, and it helps those around you to know that you need some help, whatever that might look like. This kind of exchange can result in phenomenal cooperation and collaborative brainstorming. 

Admittedly, you need to make your needs known to the right people -- those who care and those who’ll listen. Once you know who they are, you’re good to go (as in, you’re good to ask).  

One caveat: the importance of asking for what you need isn’t exclusively about having the need met (weird, I know). Instead it’s about expressing yourself, and then being resourceful about having the need met. In other words, you might ask for a specific need, and folks might say “no”. That’s okay. They’re allowed.  Having asked the question once, though, you’ve now paved the way for you to keep asking. Just because the first person you asked said no, doesn’t mean that the next person won’t step up and help. 

Bottom-line: being able to ask for help, to ask for what you need, is a critical part of the leadership role. If you can’t do this, you cannot lead effectively. So set your pride aside; put your fears to rest; and ask for what you need. When you do this, you set the stage for everyone to succeed.