Guest Post – Hey Leaders They Don’t Work for You, You Work for Them

Guest post by Victor Prince

Hey Leaders – They Don’t Work for You, You Work for Them

One of my pet peeves is when a manager describes someone on their team by saying “they work for me.” While that statement may represent a reporting relationship on the current org chart, it gets the bigger picture wrong.

When a new acquaintance asks you where you work, do you identify your job by saying you work for (insert current manager’s name)? Unless you report to a notable individual, probably not. People “work for” a lot of different reasons – to earn a living, to support a mission, for personal fulfillment, etc. – but making their current manager happy is probably not the sole reason they go to work.

Leaders who think their teams “work for them” actually have it wrong in another important way: leaders should view themselves as servants to their team and not the other way around. The phrase “servant leadership” was coined in the 1970s by Robert K. Greenleaf, who wrote: “The difference (between servant-first leadership and traditional leadership) manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served… Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous…?”

How do leaders help their team members grow and become more autonomous? In our new book, Mike Figliuolo and I describe the 12 “leadership services” that leaders must provide to their teams:


  • Planning: Leaders translate their vision for the organization into team goals and individual goals.
  • Prioritizing: Leaders prioritize the individual goals into team priorities.
  • Coordinating: Leaders use their higher seat on the org chart to provide their team members with broader organizational perspectives and make connections for them.


  • Deciding: Leaders make decisions that can’t or shouldn’t be made by their team members.
  • Motivating: Leaders motivate people to do things, particularly when they are difficult.
  • Clearing: Leaders help people overcome the roadblocks they face at work.


  • Monitoring: Leaders are accountable for delivering team goals, so they track team progress against goals.
  • Correcting: Leaders help correct their team members’ work.
  • Repairing: When errors get by leaders, they help repair the damage.


  • Training: Leaders must teach team members new skills and ensure they receive the training they need to perform their jobs effectively.
  • Coaching: Leaders help build their team members’ confidence and capabilities.
  • Promoting: Leaders advance their team members’ careers by positioning them for growth.

If you are a team leader, think about whether you are providing all of these services to every member of your team. If you aren’t, why not? If it’s an issue of “not having enough time” you might want to reconsider how you’re spending the limited time you have.

One reason you may spend too little time and energy with some team members is because you spend too much time and energy with some other team members. Our new book offers an assessment tool to help you understand where you are investing your time and energy across your individual team members now, and a framework to show you how you should shift your efforts in the future. After all, getting the best out of your team is the core way that leaders serve their teams.

Victor Prince: As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Victor Prince helped build a new federal agency and led a division of hundreds of people. As a consultant with Bain & Company, he helped clients across the United States and Europe develop successful business strategies. Today, Victor is a consultant and speaker who teaches strategy and leadership skills to clients around the world. His book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide their Teams to Exceptional Results, is available at, Barnes & Noble and other retailers.