Leadership is Not About Knowing All the Answers
Leadership is not about knowing all the answers—it is about leading others to do their best to accomplish goals, solve problems and grow. How many times have you seen a “leader” arrive at the wrong conclusion or take misguided action because they did not know all the facts? How many times have you been frustrated because you were not asked to provide your opinion, perspective or experience?
When leaders do not take time to formulate and ask appropriate questions, the whole organization suffers—people do not contribute their best; they do not grow, and the organization often takes sub-optimal or wrong action. Likewise, leaders that do not ask purposeful questions can demoralize the organization, gradually turn associates into non-thinking “yes people” and risk looking foolish or arrogant.
A leader’s effectiveness can be greatly improved by using insightful questions. Here is how.
“Leaders who do not ask purposeful questions can demoralize the organization.” -Bruce Rhoades
Benefits and Power of Asking Questions
With the proper use and timing, asking questions allows a leader to:
- Guide the direction of the conversation and focus the discussion
- Clarify what others have said to improve understanding
- Improve decisions with better, in-depth information from people who may know more
- Formulate well-informed decisions with input from other perspectives to better define issues
- Precipitate a decision by asking for options and exactly what is needed to decide
- Develop alternative options
- Raise the level of thinking in the organization, often to broader, more strategic issues
- Improve organizational collaboration and communication
- Help move from concepts and discussions to action and defined accountability
- Help focus on results and outcomes
- Empower the organization
- Make people feel valued and improve job satisfaction
- Solicit input from those who may not typically speak up
- Improve organizational learning
- Inspire creativity and new ideas
- Buy time to think
- Help overcome wasted authority.
- Allow confrontation without making statements by inducing people to explain themselves
- Lead others to conclusions
- Suspend the business discussion to discover problematic interpersonal issues, attitudes and concerns
- Improve self-reflection to discern what was learned, mistakes made, missed opportunities to mentor, what to do differently
“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.” -Thomas Berger
My Most-Used Questions
Each of us can come up with a list of questions to be used in the appropriate circumstance. Here is a list of questions that I have found to be effective and useful: