Leaders come and leaders go. Only certain ones stick around--in the hearts and minds of the people who worked for them, that is.

Whether or not you realize it, your employees are consciously (and often subconsciously) asking questions about you. To be able to answer an emphatic "Yes!" to those questions can mean the difference between getting compliance and commitment, between employees who fall in line and those who would stand in line to work for you again.

Specifically, there are three common questions employees constantly ask about their leaders. If the answers are consistently yes, you're well on your way to having employees who'd take a bullet for you.

1. Do you care for and about your employees?

You either care about your employees or you don't. There is no gray zone.

You care about them when you show warmth, interest in their well-being and a desire to connect. You care about them when you consistently treat them with respect, give them the benefit of the doubt, empower them (versus micromanage them) and treat their time as if it was as valuable as your own.

You care for your employees when you keep them out of harm's way, protect their priorities from countless outside distractions, get them the resources they need and the recognition they deserve, and when you do all you can to build a supportive environment for them.

I've repeatedly asked myself a simple question to ensure I was on track: "Does my shop feel like a community or a corporation?" If it was definitely the former, I knew I was showing up as caring for and about my employees the way I intended.

2. Are you investing in your employees to help them get where they want to go?

In other words, do you care about your employees' career, learning, and growth as much as you do your own? Find out what they want to do, not what they're supposed to want to do. Have an honest conversation on what it will take to get there. Be conducive to their learning by adopting these traits:

  • Have patience and empathy for the learning process (and tolerance for mistakes).
  • Have a "not yet" mindset versus a "you failed" mindset.
  • Put emphasis on assets, not deficits.
  • Enable ownership of ideas (don't do too much for them).
  • Talk openly about the importance of learning. Role model its prioritization.
  • Encourage "sky's the limit" thinking, not limited thinking.
  • Show a genuine interest in each individual's unique learning journey.
  • Take the time to teach in teachable moments.

3. Can your employees trust you?

There are many other ways to frame this question: Do you have your employees' backs -- always? Are you always acting in their best interest? Can they share their confidences with you and know it will stay that way? Do you do what you say you're going to do? Do you present yourself authentically at all times?

Nothing is more transparent than when a leader's not being transparent, and just one slip can eviscerate trust, forever. You show up authentically when you:

  • Are a beacon of transparency, honesty, and integrity.
  • Behave in a down-to-earth and approachable manner.
  • Act with humility and vulnerability.
  • Live your values non-negotiably.
  • Provide truth, reality, and hope.
  • Give genuine feedback.
  • Give credit away and accept blame.

If you're able to say "Hell yes!" to these three things, then you're the type of leader who is a destination for employees -- a stop they'll want to make on their career journey to experience a leader they won't forget.

Published on: Jun 25, 2019
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.