It is a good question: Do leaders and employees want the same things in work and in the workplace? Looking at today’s hot workplace topics like “return to office,” where people work, and more, many would answer no. Current divisions indicate that leaders and employees want different things. I think it is a valuable question. Because when we understand what we want from work, we are in a far better place to create it. How can we create something if we don’t really know what we want?

It's a simple question, right?

The question appears to have a simple yes/no answer. But it is more complicated than that, for at least these three reasons:

  • Not every leader and every team member want the exact same things (or even somewhat similar things).
  • Every leader is also an employee, so they wear both hats.
  • It’s a macro question that needs a micro answer to be meaningful (and personal).

Having noted the complexity, here is my answer:

It is far closer to a yes than a no 

Here’s why.

  • People want to do work that matters – leaders want people to be engaged.
  • People want to make a difference – leaders want people to get good work accomplished.
  • People want clear expectations – leaders want people to be clear (even if they aren’t always good at making those expectations clear).
  • People want targets and a sense of progress towards them – leaders want people to have goals (though the way we do it doesn’t always work great).
  • People want to have input – leaders want the best perspectives and solutions to problems.

These are just a few examples of when the same result is approached from different perspectives. There is a lot of common ground here, even though people don’t always see or notice it. Like the old saying goes, “There is far more that unites us than divides us.”

Check My Work

I have shared a conceptual answer. But as I said before, knowing what we want from work needs to be considered individually and locally as well. If you are a leader, my advice is to talk to your team. Ask them what they want. If you are a team member, ask your leadership what they want too. Then, most importantly, look for the connections first, rather than the differences.

I am not suggesting we gloss over or ignore the differences. But begin with the common ground. When we do, we will be far better able to explore the differences with open minds and hearts, learn from each other, and create a better workplace that creates better results - for everyone.

Want help developing skills for your leaders or thinking about your leadership development strategies? 

About the Author

Kevin has spent 30 years helping organizations and leaders from over 40 countries become more effective. has twice named him in the top 100 Leadership and Management Experts in the World. His books include Remarkable Leadership, From Bud to Boss, The Long-Distance Leader, The Long-Distance Teammate, and The Long-Distance Team.

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