The leader of the past may have been a person who knew how to tell, but certainly, the leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask. -Peter Drucker
Socrates, Peter Drucker and other great leaders know that questions are one of your most powerful leadership skills. As a leader, how well do you use them? If you are like most, then your honest answer may be…not so well. Too many intelligent, skilled, and otherwise capable leaders are not asking the right questions.
The Power of Questions
A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that shifts the way we perceive or think about something. Warren Berger, author of A Beautiful Question
Socrates continuously asked his students questions until they saw and understood their false assumptions and contradictions in their own logic. You can use them to:
Are convinced that questions are critical? Great! Here is the bad news. You must shift your mindset from a being a “Teller” Leader to a “Learner” Leader. “Tellers” mindset is closed and, as a result, they answer questions and give specific instructions to their direct reports. “Learner” mindset is one of curiosity, so they ask great questions and engage in discussions.
Types of Questions
“Good questions inform; great questions transform.” –John Maxwell
I categorize questions into three types:
1) Leading questions include an implied or explicit answer. Trial attorneys use them expertly, but leave that “tool” for them. They’re not for Learner Leaders.
2) Closed questions can be answered quickly, with little thought.
3) Open questions do not lead, and, instead:
Here are a few examples of useful open questions(A larger list of questions can be found heToo many intelligent, skilled, and otherwise capable leaders are not asking the right questions. Click To Tweetre).
A culture that encourages people to ask questions also increases communication, collaboration, and transparency. If your question-asking skills need improvement, start by noticing:
Like any other valuable skill, asking effective questions takes practice.
“Questions open our minds, our eyes, and our hearts. With our questions we learn, connect, and create. We are smarter, more productive, and able to get better results. We shift our orientation from fixed opinions and easy answers to curiosity, thoughtful questions, and open-minded conversations, lighting the way to collaboration, exploration, discovery, and innovation.” Marilee Adams, Ph.D., Author of Change Your Questions, Change Your Life.
The best leaders understand the power of inquiry to improve their own mindsets and engage others. Use it yourself. The next time you are asked a question, try this response: “I don’t know. What do you think?”.