Caleb Woods via Unsplash

Test Your Team Ethos with This Defining Leadership Question

Former COO of HGTV, Susan Packard has a strong ethos about teamwork, which means that she makes all her decisions within the context of people who work with her. Three of her practices that I recently highlighted are strategies that earn loyalty, create engagement, and enlist employee buy-in—all outcomes that are in short supply today.

One of Packard’s practices is to ask, “Whose am I?” when making leadership decisions. This turn of phrase puts an emphasis on the greater ecosystem in which a leader participates. If you’re a leader, every choice you contemplate should include the group to which you belong. Pondering to whom you belong begs a reaction Packard often experiences when she speaks with audiences. People often say, “What choice should you make when you don’t feel a connection to your leader? What are your options when you don’t belong?”

These responses are emblematic of a trend that Gallup discovered in their research: a leader’s connection with each employee is the number-one reason a person stays or leaves. I asked Packard what she tells her audience members when they ask about friction with their bosses. Packard encourages her Fully Human readers to consider other areas of the company if the friction is only with that one person. She recommends that you consider explaining to your boss that you want to expand your skill set and that a lateral move could be beneficial to your personal growth.

If a move isn’t possible and you have the ability to leave, Packard suggests creating an exit plan and finding another position. It was at this moment during my conversation with Packard that I was transported to 2008 when I had to make that difficult decision.

I had been with my company for fifteen years, working my way up the ladder and hiring many of the people who worked there. When I became COO, I found that the CEO and I were at odds on many important decisions that impacted Prologis financially. I met with the board and explained that I would be stepping away from the company. I ultimately was invited back as CEO when the Great Recession hit. Four years later, Prologis was healthy again, and it was time to turn the reins over to new leadership.

People often ask me why I returned to lead Prologis when the company’s stock value was plummeting and the executive team was suffering from the effects of their departed leader. My response always comes easily; I returned for the employees. Had I known Packard’s philosophy and been asked, “Whose am I?” I would have said, “I belong to the employees at Prologis.”

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Friction with your boss happens at every level, and we’re often faced with difficult decisions. No matter your career, you’re in the people business as long as you have a boss, a board, or clients with whom you work. The quality of your working relationships is largely up to the leader, but employees also have the power to influence. If you’re the leader and you have a decision to make, ask yourself to whom you belong. It’s a powerful way to remind yourself who and what are at stake.


  1. Sheena Montague

    I can’t wait until I have to remind myself of this question when I am placed in a leadership position. Right now I am just finding my place and learning the way.

    Reply to Sheena Montague

    1. Walt Rakowich

      Sheena, I think you’re well ahead of the game if you’re already thinking like this. But I also think you can use this framework now with your colleagues and community. You may be an emerging leader yet among these groups.

      Reply to Walt Rakowich

  2. Steven Laposa

    Excellent question that has extensive horizontal, vertical, and time-variant applications and dynamics.

    Reply to Steven Laposa

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