A common fallacy is that great leaders never have to ask questions – they inherently have all the answers.
But authentic leaders know that nothing could be further from the truth.
Impactful Leaders Realize the Power in Asking Questions
Jim Schleckser writing in Inc. compared a leader’s capacity to answer every question directed to them to that of a switchboard operator, trying to make the right connections to solve all the organization’s issues. And that, he says, not only limits leadership, but limits the organization’s growth as well.
Bold, impactful leaders know the tremendous power in asking questions. By asking the right questions, team members learn to strategize on their own to solve issues. And in this discovery, they strengthen their ability to figure out problems and heighten their self-esteem in the process: and that’s a win-win situation for growth and expansion.
“Good leaders ask great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, do more, and become more.”
-John C. Maxwell
But there are times when leaders must ask questions – not only as part of personal growth, but of leadership growth as well.
And what are the common questions successful leaders oftentimes ask?
Most Leaders Will Relate to These Common Questions
As a Forbes Coaches Council Expert Panel wrote, there’s no shame in a successful business professional asking questions. Yet some leaders feel embarrassed and conflicted, realizing that others look to them for answers.
The Council discovered oftentimes many leaders question the same issues. Among the most commonly asked questions leaders faced:
- What do I do now? Leaders often ask this when their companies are flourishing, as they ponder the future.
- What do I need to change? Everyone realizes how difficult change is. Authentic leaders accept (and welcome) change when necessary to achieve strategic goals.
- Is it normal to feel like an imposter? Many leaders feel that others see inflated images of their abilities. Imposter syndrome is all too common.
- What if I don’t have all the answers? Appearing to have all the answers makes some leaders feel invulnerable. True leaders know they don’t have the answers to all questions…no one does.
- Is self-doubt normal? As the Forbes Council noted, all leaders have their own self-doubts – and think they’re the only ones who do. Not so. It’s a part of being human.
- How do I respond to sexist comments? Many leaders admit to being caught off guard and wish they had been better prepared.
Most leaders will be able to relate to these questions.
The realization that other successful leaders have the same internal dialogue may better enable us to reach out to others and share thoughts and reflections. The result? Deeper, more meaningful partnerships built on authenticity.
Creating Effective Dialogue in the New Virtual Reality
Whether it’s asking questions or providing answers, many regular face-to-face meetings have been replaced by a virtual environment as part of the new era of social distancing. For some, it’s an awkward way of communication.
Melissa Raffoni writing in Harvard Business Review notes that not only is it more difficult to ‘read’ people via on-line meetings, but distractions can easily pull people’s attention away in many different directions. All is not lost, Reffoni says – it’s a matter of requiring new skills, whether a bit of technical know-how or re-thinking strategy.
She offers 5 questions to ask as we lead in the new virtual environment:
- Are we being strategic enough?
- How up to date are our communication plans?
- Review employee responsibilities in the new virtual environment: some people may thrive online; others need more support. Are our employees thriving on-line? If not, what do they need to flourish?
- How well are we focusing – and communicating – about the big picture?
- How can we further strengthen company culture?
Raffoni quotes Michael Porter from “What Is Strategy?”: “New [strategic] positions open up because of change…new needs emerge as societies evolve.”
Here’s a tip: Not all questions need to be directed outward. Most impactful leaders realize the importance of self-reflection, of time spent alone asking ourselves key questions. This can be a deep, profoundly insightful way to learn more about ourselves and how we interpret our experiences.
We all realize now that there is a new normal in life as a result of the pandemic. What is that new normal? It’s a realization that there isn’t one. What a paradox, right?
Bold leaders realize that there isn’t just one new normal, ask meaningful questions, seek impactful answers, and through their resilience, adapt to new ways of doing business. Today, may we all ask the important questions to spark great change.
“The little girl who asks, “Why is the sky blue?” becomes the woman who changes the world.”
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Colleen Slaughter, Proud Executive Coach to the UN World Food Program, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
As the Managing Partner of Authentic Leadership International (ALI) & a Women’s Leadership Coach, my highest intention in the business realm is to help women in positions of high influence to understand their worth at a profound level.
Supporting women leaders to truly thrive and step into their greatness, while succeeding in male-dominated industries and spaces is my native genius.
My technique and approach show you how to achieve incredible career success without compromising any part of who you are and what makes you magnificent.
Recently, my perspectives were featured in an article on the International Coach Federation’s website here.