Why Great Leaders Put Their Followers Goals First


Last week I met one of our closest clients for lunch.

The Chief Revenue Officer of a disruptive and ultra-high growth FinTech company, they’ve had an amazing year so far.

Already his team is over 200% target. They’ve signed some of the biggest investment banking clients in the world and become the market defining company in their industry. Valuation of the business has increased by 100-fold and both management and shareholders are delighted with the progress.

Yet strangely, despite this success, he seemed unsatisfied and driven as ever. The reason? A he explained, although the overall management and majority of employees were content, quite a few of his global team were still some way short of reaching their own personal objectives.

You see, in order to motivate his team he always ensured that they had personal goals to work towards. Specific reasons for them to achieve in the workplace.

His top salesman Justin was still short of earning the commission required to put the deposit down on his first home. It wasn’t looking Emily was going to make the promotion she so hoped for. And Mo was still travelling 3 weeks a month, despite agreeing to try and manage his schedule better in January’s appraisal meeting.

As our client explained, his biggest priority – even more than keeping management, clients and shareholders happy – was to be there for his team. To help them hit their goals. If that was done properly, he believed the overall targets and numbers would just take care of themselves.

So as long as there were team members who had yet to reach their personal goals, there was lots more important work to be done.

It got me thinking. And upon reflection it made total sense. In fact in ten years as a recruiter I can say with confidence that the best executives I have ever worked with are those who make the effort to understand what goals their followers are working towards.

And then work hard to make them happen.

Here are some reasons why great leaders put their followers goals first.

It increases motivation

Perhaps the most obvious reason for measuring performance by what drives others is that it simply increases motivation.

Sure, we all understand the importance of the company needing to hit targets, but as hugely complex beings most of us all will eventually start to ask the inevitable question: that’s fine, but what’s in it for us?

Annual reports and shareholder satisfaction aren’t likely to get team members buzzing in the morning.

Great leaders understand that personal objectives are the things that drive hard work. Whether it’s a promotion, a pay rise or simply wanting to be recognised by others its essential to understand the unique requirements of each team member and emphasise this whenever possible.

Strong goals build strong motivation.

Great leaders strengthen motivation.

It builds longevity

Ever worked with someone who seemed to have everything?

Great earnings, great recognition and great career prospects?

Yet amazingly, they still quit for no obvious reason?!

In ten years as a recruiter I can say with confidence that this happens more than you think. And often, losing one top performer can be even more painful than consistently losing average ones (especially if they go to the competition :)

The main reason for this heartbreak is that most companies simply don’t grasp the real reasons for employee engagement and satisfaction. In order to try and “lock down” star performers they offer more money, more security and more responsibility.

And although these things work in the short term, in the long term they can actually be a hindrance. Once the stock vests or the money becomes less important, employees are almost desperate to escape the golden-handcuffs and try something new.

Great leaders understand that the only way to build longevity in the relationships with their followers is to consistently make the effort to understand them. To go deep. To keep track of their changing needs and try their best to help them achieve them.

By putting their followers goals first they build a mutual trust that lasts long term.

Great leaders think long term.

It’s more fulfilling 

Leadership can be tough.

Often very tough.

Pressure from the top. Pressure from the bottom. Pressure from outside. Long hours. Intense scrutinisation. Constant travel, time away from the family, making tough decisions.

And those stress levels aren’t particularly friendly to our cardiovascular systems either.

To go through this whirlwind of emotions and pressure requires good reasons. After a while the usual “reasons” of money, career titles or social recognition don’t always work. It’s often why many executives I have worked with quit their high pressure jobs to do something more “rewarding”.

But there is one incentive that can make all the pressure seem worthwhile.

And that’s seeing how all the hard work can help positively improve the lives of others.

Great leaders understand that as hugely social and emotional creatures, helping our fellow human beings feels good. What makes our species so great is how we we’re often prepared to risk losing out ourselves just to help someone we might not even know.

It’s something that’s unique to humanity and although it’s easy to forget in this fast paced world we live in today, something that’s programmed deep down in all of us.

Uncovering it and going out of our way to work with others is what makes life truly rewarding.

Great leaders make life rewarding.


Organisational targets are important for measuring performance.

But they often do little to build motivation.

Great leaders understand that a single company target can’t cover the diversity that comes with all the different personalities in a team. To expect others to go the extra mile it’s essential to make the effort to uncover what’s important to them.

And then try your best as a leader to help them achieve it.

It’s the way to build teams that are truly special.

Does your boss put your goals first?

If you are looking for top FinTech talent please reach out here