The Essence of Leadership

By Todd Dewett, Andersen Alumnus, author and speaker

I’m often asked about what really matters for leadership success. At the risk of oversimplifying, I’ve landed on three main functions. Leaders help, inform, and inspire. Any other function you might think of can be reasonably subsumed by one of these three.

To help means to provide structure in the form of expectations and goals. It also means to facilitate work by providing resources, coaching, and actual assistance when needed. It definitely includes empowering decision-making and looking for chances to make collaborative decisions with the team. Finally, helping is predicated on lots of listening and eventually results in creating developmental opportunities.

To inform is to give your team information that facilitates trust and productivity. It’s all about proactively embracing transparency. First, you provide feedback as needed that keeps them moving forward. Next, you explain your key decisions and behaviors. Don’t let them make assumptions – ever. Finally, you share higher level information, as appropriate. They need to know why certain things happened and what’s coming or being considered that might impact their work.

Last but not least, to inspire is to push them past mere motivation towards a stronger sense of purpose. You do this first with recognition and rewards, of course, but there’s much more. It’s about being human and compassionate. So, admit your mistakes, embrace learning, and make sacrifices. Be their advocate. Demand and model positivity. Finally, find ways to connect them to the ultimate purpose their work supports. Help them see meaning beyond the money they earn.

Leadership can feel difficult at times given the complexities of situations and personalities, but you can focus just by asking whether or not you’re doing enough to help them, to inform them, and to inspire them.

Dr. Todd Dewett is one of the world’s most watched leadership personalities: a thought leader, an authenticity expert, best-selling author, top global instructor at LinkedIn Learning, a TEDx speaker, and an Inc. Magazine Top 100 leadership speaker. He has been quoted in the New York Times, TIME, Businessweek, Forbes, and many other outlets. After beginning his career with Andersen Consulting and Ernst & Young he completed his PhD in Organizational Behavior at Texas A&M University and enjoyed a career as an award-winning professor. Todd has delivered over 1,000 speeches to audiences at Microsoft, ExxonMobil, Pepsi, Boeing, General Electric, IBM, Kraft Heinz, Caterpillar, and hundreds more. His educational library at LinkedIn Learning has been enjoyed by over 30,000,000 professionals in more than one hundred countries in eight languages. Visit his home online at or connect with Todd on LinkedIn. He can be reached at