Why Successful Leaders Ask For Help!

We expect that our business leaders will do just that, lead. But the mark of a truly effective leader is someone who understands that they cannot lead from the front without the support of the people around them. Being a leader should not equate to being a loner,and utilising the skill and knowledge of your team is critical if you want to be successful as an individual and an organisation.

There are always tough decisions to be made as a leader, but it is a sign of true confidence and self-understanding when a leader recognises that they need help.

Leaders who ask for help reduce the risk of missing goals and targets

In an article entitled How Strong Leaders Ask For Help, it is contended that weak leadership focuses too much on face-saving and proving competence – doing so at the risk of missing deadlines and strategic milestones:

Weak leaders hesitate to ask for help, fearing others will see them as incapable. Strong leaders, on the other hand, focus on more strategic issues of accomplishing the mission, developing team capabilities and confidence, and gaining buy-in for overall success.

Dale Carnegie’s point of view is that strong leadership should be characterised by a total focus on the mission and goal rather than the self. This is about dropping the ego and insecurity and having a complete drive towards success – understanding that it cannot be achieved alone.

Build confidence and increase credibility

Confidence tends to come from experience rather than inbuilt belief. If leaders can accept that they don’t have all the answers and will never be the finished article, then they can ask for help when needed. Effective, confident leaders understand that leadership is a learning process and that they are not striving for perfection. In leadership, it is impossible to be binary.

Create an environment of psychological safety

Being honest about one’s capability and knowledge is a hallmark of successful leadership. No one expects a leader to be an expert in everything; they do however expect a commitment to continual learning and to role model what Carol Dweck labels a ‘growth mindset’. This mindset builds credibility with employees, creates an environment of psychological safety that enables others to make mistakes, and helps others learn and grow by knowing it’s okay to ask for help.

There is a strong business case to create an environment like this in the workplace.

Research carried out by Dale Carnegie last year, evidenced that “companies who encourage independent thinking regularly outperform competitors who discourage or otherwise punish employees for speaking up”.

There were strong takeaways from that research that showed we must create a culture where mistakes are viewed as something that is easily corrected to facilitate a safe environment that allows for different opinions.

It is the adoption of a growth mindset and the modelling of this behaviour that demonstrates to others it is ok not to have all the right answers. A team is predicated on a learning culture; we learn from each other. A powerful example of this is the commitment from Burger King’s MD to have all senior management spend one day on the shop floor a year to learn from the branch colleagues.

Eliminate damaging leadership blind spots

Every human has a physical blind spot, a point in our field of vision that we simply can’t see. Dale Carnegie research discovered that leaders and leadership teams have these blind spots too – a discrepancy between how they believe they behave and how their employees say they behave.

This study discovered 4 key behaviours that impact retention, engagement, performance, and profitability and suggested ways that leaders could eliminate them.

  • Leaders must give their employees sincere praise and appreciation
  • Leaders do well to admit when they are wrong
  • Effective leaders truly listen, respect, and value their employees’ opinions.
  • Employees want leaders they can trust to be honest with themselves and others.

As John Maxwell said,

“A great leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

And by learning to ask for help, great leaders are showing their thirst for knowledge and excellence that will not only benefit themselves but their teams and organisations as well.

How to become a leader who asks for help

Once a leader has recognised their blind spots, they are in a position of confidence because they have shown vulnerability. Dale Carnegie’s Golden Book contains principles that facilitate the creation of a culture that encourages asking for help. There are 30 principles in total, but below are the most relevant in terms of showing how a leader exhibits that they need their team members:


  1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
  2. Give honest, sincere appreciation.
  3. Show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say ‘you’re wrong.
  4. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  5. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.

Dale Carnegie clearly understood the importance of confident leaders and the help they received through their team. If we look at the 2nd principle, when a leader shows appreciation for their team, it shows that they recognise the valuable contribution that they make day to day. Showing gratitude for either a project or just a general sense of their continued loyalty and the way they show up can be signs of a confident leader. Because when a leader acknowledges the contribution a team member has made, it breaks down barriers and shows a lack of ego. It demonstrates the kind of leader who understands they are not responsible for everything and that the team is a huge part of the way they achieve day to day.

As human beings, we always need to call upon others. As leaders, it stands to reason that we should know all the individuals in our team – the reason you need to know other people’s names is because you will need to call on them to succeed. By learning to ask for help, great leaders model confidence and a growth mindset that will not only benefit themselves but their teams and organisations as well.